DESCRIPTIVE NARRATIVES OF THE MORE DESPERATE ENGAGEMENTS ON THE GALLIPOLI PENINSULA
(Second Light Horse Brigade)
Preface by the Hon. J. A. Hogue
"When cannons are roaring and bullets are flying, The lad that seeks honour must never fear dying."
LONDON: ANDREW MELROSE, LTD 3 YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN, W.C
Printed June 1916
Reprinted August 1916
ALL THE BRAVES
Who fought for Australia and the Empire
The Dead who yet live,
And the Living who bear their Battle scars
upon them, or, scatheless, thank God for
The Author desires to thank the Proprietors of the _Sydney Morning Herald_ for permission to incorporate in this book the "Trooper Bluegum" articles which originally appeared in that journal, and the Proprietors of the _Passing Show_ for permission to reprint the verses "Anzac," by "Argent." He desires to thank many friends in Australia, previously unknown to him, for kind letters sent to him whilst fighting (and writing) in the trenches on Gallipoli; and also that little band of Red Cross workers in country towns of New South Wales who, in appreciation of his stories from the Front, knitted him socks and Balaclava caps and scarves to ward off the winter winds. Especially does he desire to thank his esteemed colleague on the _Herald_, Mr. Farmer Whyte, for valuable assistance, generously rendered, in the preparation and arrangement of the contents of this book for publication in their present form.
Among the legacies, good and evil, tragic and inspiring, which the Great War of Nations is destined to hand down to posterity, one of the most valuable and permanent in its influence will be the LITERATURE which this Armageddon will have brought forth. In that fountain of knowledge the world will have command of vast stores of intellectual treasure--History, Poetry, the Drama, Philosophy, Fiction--which will continue to fascinate, to appal, to instruct, so long as books are read and the crimes, the virtues, the calamities and follies of mankind are subjects of human interest.
Such a literature, sanctified by the blood of millions of heroes--the world's best manhood--and by sacrifices and sufferings that have literally staggered humanity, will comprehend and crystallize events, compared with which all former world-cataclysms will seem but passing ripples on the ocean of life.
While in its inception and progress this greatest breach of the world's peace has exhibited a section of mankind as hardly at all removed from fiends incarnate, it has also shown men inspired by the highest virtues and striving for the loftiest ideals; and it has produced women only a little lower than the angels. Thus we seem to see, in all its naked deformities as well as in its beauty and majesty, the very soul of nations.
Not to "the future historian," but to whole battalions of historians will it fall to relate the tragic story of this mighty conflict, to pass judgment on the guilty authors of it, while giving to valour and the champions of right their due. They will have ample material to work upon, and they should have little difficulty in sifting out from the mass of evidence before them that which is true from that which is false, certainly as to the real instigators of the rupture.
As to the conduct and prosecution of this war of big battles, the fighting over (and under) thousands of miles of land and ocean, and in the air, the work of the armies of war correspondents has been, on the whole, worthy of the highest traditions of that dangerous class of literary work. In many respects it has even surpassed that of the great war chroniclers of the past, from Russell and Forbes onwards, who have shed lustre on British and foreign journalism. The old race of war correspondents has passed away, but their spirit survives. A new school has been founded. They who graduate in it must accommodate themselves to new conditions of warfare, wherein the Censor plays his part.
To the work of these writers the historians of the war will be largely indebted for their material in relating the operations of the opposing hosts. The private letters of soldiers throw a clear light on minor phases of the engagements in which they took part. These provide intensely interesting reading, too often of a painfully absorbing kind, their authors the eyewitnesses of and actors in the scenes they describe.
The "Trooper Bluegum" contributions to the literature of the war were written for and have appeared in the _Sydney Morning Herald_. They are the work of a Sydney native, a trained journalist, who for the time gave up a responsible position on the literary staff of that journal to enlist as a trooper and serve at the front. As a military writer his reputation had been well on in the making when General Sir Ian Hamilton, a few years ago, came to Australia to inspect the Commonwealth Forces. Here came his chance as a military critic and descriptive writer on training operations. For his insight into the manoeuvres and sham fight engagements of our troops, and his descriptions in the _Sydney Morning Herald_ of the important movements under Sir Ian Hamilton's observation, the future "Trooper Bluegum" earned the special commendation of that distinguished British General. From the rank of trooper the author of these sketches speedily rose in the service, obtained a commission, and, as Second Lieutenant, was chosen orderly to Colonel (afterwards Brigadier-General) Ryrie, Commander of the Second Light Horse Brigade. Soon after landing at the scene of operations at Gallipoli, he was promoted to First Lieutenant.
It was just before Christmas, close on five months after war was declared, that the Expeditionary Force which included General Ryrie's Brigade sailed from Sydney. Nearly the whole of Trooper Bluegum's descriptions of the operations in the Anzac sphere were written in dugouts between intervals of the fighting, often with shells screaming overhead, shrapnel bursting, and bullets flying about him.
A feature of the descriptions in this book is the clear light thrown on the rollicking yet unconquerable spirit of the Australian soldier in action, on his never-failing good humour and love of fun even in the face of death in any form, his amenableness to discipline, his cheerful, patient endurance of hardship, and his fine contempt of danger whenever and wherever confronting him. Here is seen the Australian (his New Zealand brother in all respects his exact prototype) in the full integrity of his young manhood.
Whence came these qualities in a branch of an immortal race bred to peaceful pursuits? The analytical psychologist may not unprofitably try his hand at explaining. The root principle is that the fighting spirit which to the astonishment of the whole world, flashed out on Gaba Tepe heights, was in the blood of the race, fostered in the schools, on the playgrounds, and sustained by undying attachment to the great Empire whose flag is the symbol for all that free men hold dear.
This book is a narrative, with sidelights and commentary, of the operations of the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Forces, from the training encampment at Holdsworthy to the time when, chastened but still unconquered, the heroic band of Australians, or rather the remnant that was left of them, returned from Anzac after the most glorious failure in the annals of war.
J. A. HOGUE.
Sydney, _December, 1915_.
I A Soldier of the King 17
II We Sail Away 28
III The First Fight 38
IV In Egypt Still 50
V Heroes of April 25 58
VI Light-hearted Australians 73
VII At the Dardanelles 82
VIII Anzac 96
IX Stories that Will Never Die 109
X To Drive Back the Turk 118
XI War Vignettes 128
XII "George" 136
XIII "Robbo" 143
XIV "Come and Die" 153
XV The Bombs 165
XVI Aeroplanes 172
XVII "Padre" 179
XVIII "Stunts" 186
XIX Lonesome Pine 196
XX Lucky Escapes 212
XXI The Church Militant 219
XXII Sergeants Three 229
XXIII Mail Day 236
XXIV Reinforcements 244
XXV Shell Green 249
XXVI The Anzac V.C.'s 257
XXVII The Final Phase 267
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
TO FACE PAGE
Anzac Cove, Gallipoli 17
Portraits of (1) Col. McCay; (2) Lt.-Col. C. F. Cox, C.B.; (3) Lt.-Col. Hubert Harris; (4) Col. M. Laurin; (5) Lt.-Col. Braund; (6) Lt.-Col. Onslow Thompson 68
Officers of the 6th Australian Light Horse Regiment, 2nd Light Horse Brigade 90
Murphy's Mules at Anzac 116
Major-General W. T. Bridges 141
Anzacs in Reserve 172
Entrance to Lone Pine 204
Brigadier-General G. Ryrie 255
[Illustration: Anzac Cove, Gallipoli.]
A SOLDIER OF THE KING
RIDING TESTS--THE SOLDIER'S OATH--SIR IAN HAMILTON--MOUNTED PARADE--BUSHMEN AND CITY MEN ON TRIAL--LIGHT HORSE WAR SONG
"Trooper Bluegum, you're next."
I stepped forward. A hundred volunteers had been marched down from Victoria Barracks, Sydney, and were undergoing the riding test prior to being drafted into the Australian Light Horse.
"Mount and ride," said the sergeant.
I leaped on the bare back of a hog-maned colt. Three other candidates were already mounted waiting for the signal. One was a Sydney "bushman" and was obviously nervous. The other two were bushmen from Riverina and the Hunter River and they grinned confidently.
"Cross this flat," continued the sergeant; "leap the bog, jump the sod wall, gallop to that marker, and return."
Some fool orderly gave my mount a crack over the back with a rope and away we galloped. The flat was easy, though I had not ridden bare-backed for some time. The bog offered no resistance and we leaped the sod wall neck and neck. Then the horses wanted to bolt and they took some stopping. Anyhow, the first half of the test was safely through.
The Sydney bushman was looking more at ease. The others grinned expansively. "That's dead easy," said the man from Narrandera. "Call that a riding test?"
The return signal was given, and the quartette started off. All went well till the water jump loomed ahead. Here half a dozen yelling orderlies were posted to spur on the chargers to the leap. The three bushmen cleared the obstacle with hardly a splash, but disaster was in store for the City bushman. Right on the brink the horse stopped dead and the hapless rider was shot with catapultic force head first into the bog, amid roars of merriment from the assembled army. We three countrymen "passed," were promptly marshalled with the horsemen, and marched to the doctor's for medical examination. The City bushman was sent to "the gravel-crushers."
In a huge marquee in Rosebery Park were a score of virile young Australians stripped for the fray. Sun-tanned bushmen they were for the most part, lean and wiry, with muscles rippling over their naked shoulders. Splendid specimens--strong but not too heavy, rarely topping thirteen stone, for all the heavier men had been sent to the infantry. But these were ideal Light Horsemen.
I stood, and the sergeant ran the tape over me: Weight, 11 stone; height, 5 feet ten; chest, 37, expanded 41; age 34; beauty spots and identification marks, none; eyes, brown; hair, brown; religion, Presbyterian.
Then the doctor got busy; tapping here, sounding there, finally with a word of approval sending me over to the sight specialist. There was a jumble of letters of various sizes set before me, and finally, with a score of others satisfactory in wind and limb, I was sent on to the adjutant. My name, age, occupation, next-of-kin, and other essential details were recorded. Then we were lined up to swear allegiance.
On the flat the volunteers were still doing the riding test, with hundreds of onlookers keenly enjoying it. Each time some luckless aspirant for fame and glory was precipitated into the bog the crowd roared with delight, and when he emerged, mud-bespattered and crestfallen, the hilarity of the bushmen knew no bounds. Pointed advice was hurled at the failures, and they were urged to join the "gravel-crushers," which most of them did.
For a couple of hours the fun continued, and with the end of the day another hundred rough-riders were drawn up, passed and enlisted ready for anything and everything. One by one we went forward and took the oath.
The sun was just setting over the western rim of dear old Sydney town when my turn came. The clouds were all gold and rose and amethyst, and the whole scene was as peaceful as could be. The First Light Horse Regiment--in fine fettle, ready at a moment's notice to sail for Europe--cantering gaily back to camp, reminded us that the nation was in a state of war, that the empire was engaged in a life and death struggle, and that on the issue of the great conflict depended the fate of Australia. And we of the Sixth Regiment were to make good the "wastage of war."
So, solemnly, I kissed the Book and swore this oath: "I, James Bluegum, swear that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lord the King in the Australian Imperial Force from September 1914 until the end of the war, and a further period of four months thereafter, unless sooner lawfully discharged, dismissed, or removed therefrom; and that I will resist His Majesty's enemies and cause His Majesty's peace to be kept and maintained; and that I will in all matters appertaining to my service faithfully discharge my duty according to law. So help me God."
I was a Soldier of the King!
Once more we were lined up and marched away to the quartermaster. Each man was given a waterproof sheet, a pair of blankets, a knife, fork, spoon, tin plate, and pannikin. We were to form part of the Second Light Horse Brigade, and being minus tents we were relegated to the stables. We raided the straw store, made beds, and lay upon them.
It was not ours to go with the first lot of heroes to take part in the Great War. Most of us had waited till the Germans got within cannon shot of Paris. Then we "butted in." We were selected to supply the wastage--that was all. If we could not be the first in the firing-line, it was something to know that we would take the place of the men who were killed or wounded--all of us, the man from Narrandera, in Riverina, the man from Hunter River, the men from out-back everywhere, Trooper Bluegum among them, all whistling merrily "Soldiers of the King, my Boys!"
We of the Light Horse started with many things in our favour. We reckoned we could ride as well as, if not better than, any body of men in the world, for we could ride almost as soon as we could walk. Also, we were pretty good shots. Many were Rifle Club men. All had done a bit of shooting in the bush, for dingoes and kangaroos and wallabies are not yet extinct in Australia. So half of our lesson was learned before we started. The drill and the discipline only remained. We did not mind the drill, but the discipline was irksome.
It is a recognized flaw in our military make-up, this want of discipline. Sir Ian Hamilton, when he visited Australia in 1914, found the colonial compulsory trainees much more amenable to discipline than he expected. But the militia are caught young. We of the Expeditionary Force were a little bit too old to rid ourselves readily of the habits of the bush, and adapt ourselves to the rigid routine of military life. But perhaps it would come in time.
It is a strange world, my masters! I have before me as I write a copy of a Sydney newspaper, dated May 21, 1914, giving the report and recommendations made by General Sir Ian Hamilton in Australia, and it is headed "If War Came." And there I read of the Australian Infantry: "I have now seen the greater portion of the Australian Infantry, and I wish very much I could transplant 10,000 of these young soldiers to Salisbury Plain. They would do the croakers good and make them less frightened of other nations, who have no overseas children getting ready to lend them a hand. The majority of the non-commissioned officers and men are still very young, but they are full of intelligence and grit. On at least two occasions I have seen brigades tested severely, once by heat and heavy marching, the other time by floods and mud. In each case the men made light of their trying experiences, treating them as an excellent joke."
It was of the same men that the same man was to write but a few short months afterwards: "They have created for themselves an imperishable record of military virtue."
But it is a long, long way to ----. Day after day we performed the tiresome evolutions of troop and squadron drill on foot, for the horses were not yet ready. We mastered the mysteries of sections right, form troop, form squadron column; then day after day we engaged in rifle drill--"stand at ease," "attention," "slope arms," "present arms," till our arms ached. Then we fixed our bayonets, and in fancy bayoneted thousands of "kultured" Germans.
But it was not till the horses came that we really felt like Light Horsemen.
Let the sailor tell of the roaring gale, Or the blue waves' rippling laughter; Let the soldier sing of the sabre swing And the laurels of glory after;
There's a melody in the changeful sea, A charm in the battle's thunder, But sweeter than those the bushman knows Is the bound of a good horse under.
It was not child's play tackling those horses. Some of the kind-hearted station folk in the backblocks had sent down some wild warrigals of the West; bucking brumbies that beat the band; old outlaws off the grass that the station hands could never master. But Colonel Cox ("Fighting Charlie" we called him) had in his command some of the crack rough-riders of Australia. And it was a joy to see these men tackle the outlaws. There were Crouch of Wagga, McDonald of Barrington, Whiteley of Wellington, Bullock of Melbourne, Sievewright of Gunnedah, Kennedy of Gloucester, Rex Moffatt of Goulburn, Harry Heath of Moree, and a score of others. Nearly every man in the regiment could sit a buck, or puff nonchalantly at his pipe while his mount pigrooted merrily. So when the wild horses were led forth there were hundreds volunteering for the honour of riding the rebels. One after another the horses were saddled up, and while the regiment cheered itself hoarse, there was enacted again and again the old-time struggle for mastery. There were plunging and reefing and rooting and sidling and rearing and bucking, as the panting chargers swung this way and that in vain endeavour to dislodge the riders. But the bush boys stuck to the saddles as the Old Man of the Sea stuck to Sindbad the Sailor, and one after another the bucking brumbies were broken and led away.
Then came the first mounted parade. A squadron of Scots Greys or Life Guards might have kept better line; they might probably have wheeled with more order and precision for each troop here had a few half-broken colts prancing and dancing all over the shop, but--well, somebody said that these troops would compare favourably with any body of mounted infantry in the world. Certain it is that when, one fine day, the officer commanding, Colonel Cox, accompanied by the Brigadier, Colonel Ryrie, made a careful inspection of the whole regiment, every one from the officer commanding down was satisfied. And certain it is that we sang the Australian Light Horse war song with unusual enthusiasm--
Sound the good old bugle, boys, Let's sing another song, Sing it with a spirit That will send the troops along; Sing it as we'll sing it When we're twenty thousand strong, When we go marching through Germany!
Hurrah! Hurrah! We're off to Germany! Hurrah! Hurrah! the A.L.H. are we! We're rounding up the bushmen from the Darling to the sea And we'll go marching through Germany!
How the bushmen shouted When they heard the joyful sound, "'Fighting Charlie's' going to lead, So pass the word around; Australia wants another batch Of bushmen to astound Poor old Kaiser Bill of Germany!"
WE SAIL AWAY
CEYLON MISSED--LAND-HO--AT ADEN--BAKSHEESH--"THE TRANSPORT TRUMPETER"--A LITERARY COINCIDENCE--ON HISTORIC GROUND--THE PYRAMIDS--PAST AND PRESENT--AN EGYPTIAN HANDKERCHIEF--MA'ADI.
"Who's the Jonah?" That was mild.
"Curse our luck!" That was moderate.
But when Trooper Newman said, "To hell with the ship!" most of us felt that he showed a proper appreciation of the position.
For days and days we had ploughed our way across the Indian Ocean, and, as the long leagues in front joined their comrades behind, we felt that we were getting farther and farther from sunny New South Wales. But we were steering straight for Ceylon, and looking forward with keen anticipation to a few days of the picturesque Orient. Some of the impressionable young subalterns were singing "Cingalee, Cingalee, I have lost my heart to a Cingalee." All of us for the last day or two had been taking station on the forecastle-head, shading our eyes and gazing into the misty horizon for the first glimpse of the enchanted isle.
But alas for hopes unfulfilled! Ceylon's spicy breezes, after all, were not to fan our fevered brows, neither were Cingalese to minister to our need with "tea in the morning, tea in the evening, tea in the afternoon." Early in the morning of January 12 we got word that a special squadron of three ships was to be detached from the main fleet, and with Colonel Ryrie in command, steam straight to Aden. So we stood on deck and swore unrestrainedly.
However, there was still corn in Egypt, and we would be the first to get there. Besides, there was quite a chance that there was something doing--a Dervish expedition or an Arab raid might be on, and we would have the laugh at the other chaps if we could have first smack at the unspeakable Turk. So by the time the bugle sounded for the usual inspection, we were all in high good humour again. The three liners swung out from the convoy and, cheering a farewell, were soon steaming westward. One after another the transports dipped down under the horizon, and soon a few grey smudges on the rim of the ocean were all that remained to remind us of the fleet.
We had seen no land since leaving Australia. It seemed such a long time. So when, a couple of days later, somebody shouted "Land-ho," we rushed to the nearest post of advantage. Far away to eastward, like a green pimple on the blue face of the waters, was a tiny little island. In an hour we were abreast of it--Minikoi, surely one of the islands of the blessed; how green it looked after the everlasting blue of the Indian Ocean; from end to end it was covered with cocoa-nut palm. A long line of snow-white surf beat upon the sandy shore. Gleaming in the tropical sun was the lighthouse--a silent sentinel. And in the offing were a score of picturesque canoes, and dhows, with brown hempen sails, managed by gaudily-dressed islanders, who seemed rather annoyed that the transports did not stop and purchase their fruit-offerings.
Passing by the rugged Socotra, we soon sighted the mountainous southern coast of Arabia, and by midday on January 20 we were focussing our binoculars on the picturesque gate of the Indian Ocean, Aden. Curious it is how Britain has secured all the great strategical points of the world--Gibraltar, Suez, Aden, Singapore, Thursday Island, the Cape of Good Hope, and the rest. And one has only to see Aden, with its rocky peaks piercing the skyline, to realize how strong it is, and how futile would be any effort to capture it. For all the defences of Aden seem to be hewn out of solid granite.
No sooner had we got anchored in the harbour than the _Suevic_ was surrounded by swarms of boats, in which were crowded Asiatics of all descriptions yelling like demons in wild anxiety to sell their wares. Then the colliers came alongside and proceeded to coal. Scores of thin, undersized, but wiry Arabs did the work, and as they loaded the bunkers they kept up a perpetual yelling and singing, and the weird cacophony lasted all through the night.
Aden is a curious mixture of the Orient and the Occident. In the streets silent Arabs stalk along with camels, and Europeans buzz around in automobiles. One section of the port belongs to the Asiatics; the other is all Western. Arab dhows float across the harbour and steam tugs scurry hither and yon. One section of the town has thatched roofs; the other is all galvanized iron. And one of the natives sang us "Songs of Araby." They yelled harshly for baksheesh all the while. Clad in their own coloured loin cloths, or in discarded khaki tunics from the Force, they were a motley tatterdemalion crowd. Here East and West met--but did not mingle.
We had had no word of news for weeks. So we eagerly searched for the newspapers, and demanded news of the outer world. The war was still on. The Allies were more than holding their own. Here was news indeed!--news such as _The Transport Trumpeter_ (published aboard the _Suevic_) had never heard of. Yet we loved that little paper of ours on the transport--"a little thing, but our own." If it lacked news it did not lack reporters whose imagination made up for the deficiency. We were all reporters for _The Transport Trumpeter_. Even I. And I am wondering to this day about a certain curious coincidence connected with one of my painstaking efforts. I wrote on December 28, 1914, a skit on Lissauer's "Hymn of Hate," and Arthur Adam's reply to it--"My Friend, Remember." A month later I got the Sydney _Bulletin_, and there I saw almost exactly the same article with the same excerpts from each poem. They were probably written on the same day, a thousand miles or so apart. You who delve into the mysterious, will you explain?
* * * * *
Egypt! What memories! What life here! What a quest we have set out upon! What Alexanders are we!
I feel the blood coursing through my veins as I have never felt it before. I live in the present, but the past stands up before me. Dead kings and emperors pass in endless succession. Libyans and Ethiopians pass by, Assyrians and Macedonians, Babylonians and Persians, Romans, Arabs, Turks and Mamelukes--and French and British. Great names are sprinkled over the pages of Egypt, from Menes, the first king, and Rameses the Second, down to the present day. Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great, Constantine, Saladin and Napoleon, Mohammed Ali and Kitchener have all left their mark on the Nile Delta. What history! and here are we--soldiers of King George V, from Australia--treading this historic ground, making new history. Nebuchadnezzar knew us not. Constantine never dreamed--and they used to dream dreams in those days--that from a land he knew not of would one day come armed men marching on the wonderful city he built.
Nor did I, nor did any of us, know it--well, not yet.
I know what it means to see the blush clouds beating the night shades back in the van of a golden morning, but there is a quality of richness about the sunrises of Egypt that Australia lacks. Egypt has the glint of gold, the cloud ridges of rosy red, the blaze of amethyst and opal. So also has the Australian sky. But Australia has no pyramids. The first beams of the sun in this land tip the cones of the age-old pyramids, and soon these drab giants shine like molten copper. Then the sky turns all gold, and the scene is duplicated in the placid bosom of the ancient Nile, which skirts our camp. In the murky distance the desert is shrouded in a misty haze which has the same blue that one sees in the distance on the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, but once the sun is fairly above the horizon, the brilliant transformation scene dissolves itself into a glaring white light that lasts till sunset. Then the morning's glory is reenacted with softer tones and a riot of colour that I can never describe.
Then, as the Pyramids of Gizeh were due west from Ma'adi, we always saw these giant triangles sharply silhouetted against the red horizon. They looked like little toy tents, yet when alongside them their magnitude staggered us.
The day was so hot that helmets were necessary. Some "went down" under the fierce rays of the sun, but there were some with us who said it was not hot at all. They spoke of the sun-baked Western Plains. They spoke of Bourke. They spoke of Northern Queensland. But they wore helmets, nevertheless.
Yet was Ma'adi, for all its heat, a joy to the senses. If we had the everlasting desert wilderness on one side, we also had the oasis of Ma'adi on the other. The irrigationist has caused the desert hereabout to blossom as the rose, and Ma'adi is like an English village, with gracious gardens and green, luscious fields and rippling canals.
I have spoken of the blue of the desert haze that is like that of the Blue Mountains. And here and there one finds other touches of old Australia. I went out one day to Sir Alexander Baird's beautiful mansion near Zeitoun, and there I saw some fine old gums and wattles; and it just felt like home.
And the people, how kind they all were! Even the shopkeepers did all they could to make us feel at home. "Special Australian Shop," "Australian Soldiers' Rendezvous"--signs like these met us at every turn. Especially grateful did we feel for the warning one Cairo shopkeeper gave us: "Don't go elsewhere to be cheated, Australians. Come here!" Nor shall we ever forget the laborious days and nights which that shopkeeper who put out the sign must have spent in mastering our language--"English and French spoken; Australian understood."
Truth to tell, the Australian soldiers were as a shower of gold to the thirsty Cairo traders. They all loved the Australians. We scattered money far and wide--till we had none left. We threw piastres to the winds--thinking nothing of them, they were such little coins--till we had none left. From morning till night we distributed largess. It was baksheesh everywhere and all the time. Whichever way we turned we found somebody dangling something in front of our eyes--ready to sacrifice it for our sake. Even Trooper Newman, who previously had expressed his best wishes to the ship, comes up to me with a gaudy handkerchief he has just bought for ten piastres. It has King George in one corner, Kitchener in another, French in another, Jellicoe in another, and generals and admirals and dukes and earls all round it. "It may be the only chance I'll get," says he, "of poking my nose into high society."
THE FIRST FIGHT
ACROSS FORTY CENTURIES--EGYPTIAN MAGIC--A SCARAB SELLER--THE ENEMY REPULSED--THE UBIQUITOUS GERMAN SPY--SPREADING DISAFFECTION--ATTACKS ON KANTARA, TOUSSOUM, ISMAILIA AND SERAPEUM--FIRST BRUSH WITH THE ENEMY.
I am living Egypt, living.... Your pyramids and your mosques and your old Nile can talk to me of things long past and gone, and I shall listen with interest to what they have to say, but I would rather be a living dog of an Egyptian than the dead lion of an Egyptian king--I would rather be a moving, talking native dressed in garish clothes than a Prince of the House of Rameses, _sans_ eyes, _sans_ ears, _sans_ tongue, in the shrivelled brown form of a mummy.
For there is something about these living ones that brings the dead to life. Sometimes when I look into their eyes I seem to see a strange, mysterious light in them--a light that never was on sea or land. It is then that I think of the things these people have seen in the forty centuries of which Napoleon spoke. I don't believe in magic, but I have seen strange things--things that make me remember that the magicians of Pharaoh were able to turn their rods into serpents!
There came one day a very wise Egyptian--one whom I know as a Freemason--and he gave a valuable scarab, mounted in a gold ring, to Major Lynch. There was no doubt that the wise man valued it, and there is no doubt that he left an impression on Major Lynch. It is a talisman and a protection to the owner, but it has deadly powers. Nothing can harm the owner so long as he has it in his possession, and the owner can shrivel up an enemy by merely pointing at him and muttering incantations--just as the Northern Territory natives in Australia can _will_ an enemy to die by pointing a bone at him. Major Lynch lost no time in putting the scarab to the test. There was a very troublesome native who used to bother him several times a day about things that don't matter, and the day after the wise Egyptian had made his presentation the major pointed at the native and muttered a powerful Australian incantation. Since then the native has not been seen.
A dragoman wanted to sell me some scarabs.
"You like fine scarab?"
"No scab here," said I, "all good Unionists."
"Not scab. Scarab--good scarab."
"Beautiful scarab. Very precious."
"I buy them for English officer; beautiful scarab. Now he go to Suez Canal. I sell cheap."
"Yes, very cheap. Sell now, lose plenty money, sir."
"Ah! Is it really worth five _piastres_?"
"Piastres! Ach! No, no, no! Five _pounds_!"
"Five pounds a dozen!"
"No, no, no! Five pounds for one beautiful scarab."
"Not ha! ha! It is three thousand years old! Time of Rameses II."
"Too old. Got any nice _new_ ones?"
"No, no. Not _new_. Old--very valuable--three thousand years!"
"Too old. Show me a new one."
"You no understand. Very old, very valuable, out of tombs in pyramid."
"Any more there?"
"No more--all gone."
"Oh, well I oughtn't to take them from you."
"Yes, you take. I sell you for five pounds."
"Yes, you. _Four_ pounds!"
"Three pounds ten."
"Two pounds ten. Finish."
"No business; _Imshi_."
Then the old man went away, muttering angrily in his beard because I would not pay three golden sovereigns for a little stone that looked like a petrified beetle. Even if it had been genuine--even if it _was_ three thousand years old--I would have thought it a shame for him to take the money. But the reputation these "gyppies" have for faking antiquities and curios made me sceptical. In the Cairo Museum are genuine thousand-year-old relics from the tombs and pyramids, and the natives copy them and sell the replicas as the genuine article.
When I was leaving the Museum one afternoon a dragoman shuffled up to me in a mysterious kind of way and thrust an antiquated statuette into my hand. "Five shillings," he whispered hoarsely. He wanted me to think it genuine, and, I suppose, stolen. (Even honest people don't mind being "receivers" when they can get a genuine relic of antiquity cheap.) I examined it with the concentrated gaze of a connoisseur in Egyptology, scratched it with my knife, and then exclaimed, "Bah, rubbish! One piastre." And the old sinner cried, "Yes, yes," and put his hand out eagerly for the money.
And all this time we were "training for the front." We did not know when we were likely to leave for the front, nor what front it would be, but already some of the Australians and New Zealanders had been in a fight. That was before we came. Egypt had been "invaded"; there had been a fight at El Kantara, some prisoners had been taken, and then the invaders turned their heads north and eastward, folding their tents, like the Arabs they are, and silently stealing away. The Great Invasion of which Kaiser Wilhelm had dreamed for months had simply petered out.
I am no historian--I write only of the little things I care about--but I would be no Australian if I failed to mention this invasion which some of the Australians helped to stamp out. It was almost inconceivable that the "thorough-going, methodical" Germans could have started an army of 75,000 men across the desert, sent only 25,000 of them into action, and then decamped. But that is what happened.
Although the Australians and New Zealanders saw but little of the actual fighting, they played no unimportant part in the scheme of things. The seeds of disloyalty and discord had been assiduously sown by German spies and agents all over Egypt. The so-called Nationalist party was intriguing to oust the British and facilitate the entry of the Turks. It was confidently anticipated by the German wire-pullers that the moment the invaders appeared on the Canal the Egyptians and Arabs would rise _en masse_ and drive the British into the sea. Drastic measures were taken months ahead for dealing with the English residents in Cairo and elsewhere. Everything seemed to be going nicely for the plotters. Obvious signs of disaffection were noticed all over Lower Egypt. The British were so few; the German-Arab-Turkish combination was so strong. It only wanted a favourable opportunity to fire the train.
Then the Australians arrived.
There may be a tendency on our part to exaggerate the influence of the Australian and New Zealand troops on the Egyptian situation; but there is not the slightest doubt that the presence of 50,000 Colonial troops had a wonderfully steadying effect on the disaffected natives. They suddenly became loyal again. All talk of sedition ceased. The best-laid schemes of the German plotters went "agley."
One could not help contrasting this large force from Australia and New Zealand--a force that was to be doubled and trebled ere long--with the little force of 500 men which William Bede Dalley, Australian Orator and Patriot, sent from New South Wales to the Sudan just thirty years before. It spoke not only of the wonderful growth in population of Britain's Dominions of the South, but it was a living proof that the years had only served to cement the bonds of love and loyalty that bind the grand old Mother land to her Oversea Dominions. The rising in India, the intention of the Australians to proclaim their independence the moment when Britain found herself in peril--where were they? Where now was the "disintegration" of the British Empire which the German Emperor and his War Lords had so confidently predicted?
With Cairo and the Nile safe, General Wilson was able to deal effectively with the invaders. Towards the latter end of January, Northern Sinai was overrun with them. From a couple of captured Shawishes of the 75th Turkish Regiment I learned that the staff arrangements by the German officers were excellent. Everything had been foreseen and provided for--or nearly everything. Water was available at each stage of the journey across the desert. Many boats and pontoons were dragged by oxen and camels along the caravan route from Kosseima, El Arish, and Nekl. A few six-inch guns were also transported to the Canal. To supplement the Turkish force on its south-westerly march all the pilgrims and Bedouins met with were pressed into service and rifles were given to them.
It was on the morning of January 28 that the initial conflict took place at Kantara. A reconnoitring party from Bir El Dueidar attacked the British outposts but was repulsed, our losses being only one officer and one soldier killed and five Gurkhas wounded. Further south, near Suez, a nocturnal demonstration by the Turks merely served to prove the alertness of the defenders, though unfortunately two of our air scouts met with disaster. Their aeroplane came down outside our lines, and on returning on foot they were both shot dead by our own Indian patrols. The pity of it.
The main attack developed on the night of February 2-3, and a determined effort was made to cross the Canal at several points. A number of boats, each carried by forty men, were silently hurried to the front. A small force attacked Kantara, but after losing twenty-one killed, twenty-five wounded and thirty-six prisoners, they decamped. Later on they renewed the attack from the south, with no more success, for they lost eight men killed, whilst a number were wounded. Our losses were four killed and twenty-four wounded.
Meantime a more vigorous assault was made at Toussoum to pierce the line just before daybreak. An infantry attack was followed by artillery fire, and under cover of the maxims a more determined effort was made to cross the Canal by means of boats, rafts, and pontoons. A shrapnel shell smashed the first boat and killed several Turks. Other boats followed and met with a similar fate--most of their occupants were killed or drowned. Not a single boat crossed. About twenty-five men swam across, however. Four penetrated the lines and escaped to Cairo, where they subsequently surrendered. The rest were captured.
Serapeum was attacked about the same time, and at dawn the battle raged along the Canal for about two and a half miles. H.M.S. _Hardinge_ moved up and down the Canal, responding to the enemy's artillery. Two Turkish shells landed on our warships, and ten men were wounded. For a couple of hours the battle raged, and although the Turks outnumbered the defenders at Toussoum by ten to one, they were repulsed all along the line.
Further north, at Ismailia Ferry, the enemy entrenched 800 yards away, and a battalion of Turkish infantry (entrenched overnight) opened fire. But they did little damage. They blazed away all day, and our casualties were only six men wounded. Then we drove them off.
So the great Germano-Turkish attack resolved itself into simultaneous onslaughts at Kantara, Ismailia, Toussoum and Serapeum; and when all attacks had failed the guns of the British and French cruisers and the shore artillery harried the enemy in their retreat and added considerably to their losses. Our casualties were only about twenty killed and 100 wounded. The invaders lost more than 420 men killed and over 700 prisoners. Their total casualties--killed, wounded, and prisoners--were computed at 3,000.
Yet it was a small thing, after all--a small thing when I look back and think of all that has happened since. But it was the first fight in the Great War that Australians and New Zealanders had a hand in.
We of the Light Horse were not in it. We saw the Turks away on the rim of the desert horizon; but the enemy attacked where we were not. We never fired a shot.
IN EGYPT STILL
LOCUSTS AND EGYPTIAN NIGHTS--THE GREAT BARRAGE--IRRIGATING THE DELTA--THE SCOT AGAIN--EGYPTIAN ROADS--ARABIAN NIGHTS--CAIRO BY NIGHT--A MAGIC OF COLOUR--"A SOUND OF REVELRY BY NIGHT"--THE "GRANDE FÊTE DU 75."
Yes, we were biding our time in Cairo; and I am telling no secrets when I say that the Australians swore terribly in Cairo. We had left our happy homes in order to take part in the war, and here we were burning our heels on the Egyptian sand--day after day, week after week. No wonder many of us, as we tramped along on a route march to Helwan on the day preceding Good Friday, said we would prefer to be spending the day at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney.
On the right of our line of march lay the Nile with its green strip of verdure on either side, and a dozen pyramids out westward. The day was as hot as a furnace. The mirage seemed to shimmer on the rim of the earth, and horsemen, camels and Bedouins a few miles away seemed to be floating in the air. Like white wings gliding up and down the Nile were the triangular sails of the native dhows--wonderfully picturesque, with their tremendous spars that tower into the sky. At old Cairo there was a veritable forest of masts. The rudders of these river boats are huge things, and the noses are painted in gaudy colours, and are always turned up disdainfully, as if they had been bumped against a pier.
You had heard of the Plagues of Egypt; we have seen them, and are able to vouch for the authenticity of the Scriptures. Instead of hot cross buns, Easter brought us a plague of locusts. The entertainment started at about three o'clock in the afternoon and lasted till after sundown. Millions and billions and quadrillions of locusts danced and sang for us. The air was absolutely full of them, darkening the sun--big yellow and brown and black things, mostly about two inches long. They sounded like thousands of whirring wheels, and they dropped on the roofs with a noise like rain. Where they landed they left everything bare as a bone. All along the Nile the "gyppies" turned out and banged tin cans to drive them off. Here was an invasion, if you like! The telegraph wires were black with them--like long beads. Some of the beautiful Ma'adi gardens were quite spoilt. These locusts of Egypt have absolutely no love for the beautiful--in fact, the more beautiful a thing is the more delight do they take in devouring it.
But even a plague of locusts does not last for ever--and Egypt does. Egypt the wonderful! Egypt the kaleidoscopic! No, gentle reader, do not waste your sympathies on us. It was tiresome work, marching, training--training for the front, which for months never seemed to get any nearer, and some of "the boys"--those of them who were "spoiling for a fight," as the saying is--used at times to kick over the traces and paint the town vermilion; but there are compensations in Egypt for all who would seek them. What did it matter that we had no hot cross buns for Easter, no hard-boiled eggs, no ling, no salmon? We had omelettes and quail on toast, and chicken and curry and strawberries (no cream) and oranges and custard and jelly and Turkish coffee and Nile fish and pancakes and fritters and iced butter and beautiful jam and marmalade--and cigars. So we managed to get "a snack," you see. And I know that I, for one, had no desire just then to swap places with any man in Australia.
On Easter Sunday some of us went out to see the Barrage--one of the most wonderful works in Egypt. Mohammed Ali started it to irrigate the Delta, but his engineers made some mistakes and the works were looked upon as a white elephant--until Britain took charge. Wonderful the things that Britain does! A board of eminent engineers examined the whole scheme and decided that it would cost over £2,000,000 to complete it. But a Scotsman came along--Sir Colin Campbell Scott-Moncrieff--and he fixed the whole show up for £1,200,000. Right at the apex of the Delta triangle they have laid out beautiful gardens, with lovely flower-beds, canals and grassy lawns; and it was a treat to rest our tired eyes on the green grass after the everlasting sand, sand, sand of the desert.
It was night when we got back to camp. Oh, those Egyptian nights! The winter cold has gone, and spring is in the air. The nights are fine and fair, clear and cloudless, with the moon pure silver. The reflections in the Nile are just wonderful. The huge date palms stand out sharply from a star-spangled sky that somehow has a tint of green in its blue. One thinks of the Arabian Nights. The very street scenes make one think of them. Motors glide up and down the streets with rich Syrians, Greeks, Egyptians, Italians, Frenchmen and Englishmen, going to the Continental, or to Shepheard's, or to private entertainments. It is a gorgeous splash of colour. They had no motor-cars that I remember in those old Arabian Nights, but the magic of the thing and the colour of it all were surely much the same. And the roads of Egypt--how beautiful they are!--clean and smooth as a billiard table. Are there any finer roads in the whole world than the Mena road and that to Heliopolis? Fifty miles an hour is easy. I sometimes shudder now when I recall the races that we used to have along those roads at night, crying "Egre! Egre!"--Faster! Faster!
One night stands out--a gorgeous night--a carnival in honour and aid of brave little Serbia. Kipling says that "East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet"; but he surely has not seen a Venetian carnival in Cairo, with its intermingling of the progressive Occident and the picturesque Orient. One will always remember that. When the tourists from the West overrun the land of the Pharaohs, as they do once a year, a Venetian fête is held at Shepheard's--the social event of the season. Sightseers from England, idle rich from the Continent, plutocrats from America, tourists from the four quarters of the world, all meet and make merry here. This year of grace witnessed a somewhat different spectacle, it is true. It was a polyglot gathering of all nations, to be sure, but the tourist element was wanting. In the place of the tourists, however, was the "Army of Occupation." Hundreds of officers, British, French, Egyptian, Australian and New Zealand, in smart uniforms, gave striking colour to the scene, which was made additionally picturesque by the vari-coloured silks and satins, scarfs and veils of the ladies. The garden was a blaze of splendour. There were the flags of the nations, there were flowers and palms and purling fountains, mirth and music, lights and laughter, and over all--confetti. All night the air was thick with confetti, like snow falling off a rainbow. Revellers flew hither and thither, flinging it everywhere. Merry maidens threw handfuls of confetti and eyesful of bold glances at the sun-tanned colonials. There was no respite until the ground was ankle-deep with confetti.
Tired at last of the revelry, we adjourned to the Moorish Hall, and while the orchestra played the ravishing strains of the barcarolle we danced the red stars to their death.
Loud explosions in the courtyard sent us rushing forth once more. And then we saw the most wonderful pyrotechnic display in all the world. Without warning, odd corners of the garden burst into a blaze of light. Rockets, Roman candles, Catherine wheels, shooting stars and all the fireworks we loved as youngsters were there in full working order, but ever so many more and ever so much grander than at those "Queen's Birthday" exhibitions which ourselves when young did eagerly frequent. Shall we ever forget that final burst of coloured lights outlining the words "Hurrah for Serbia!" Not _I_. No more than I shall ever forget the deeds of glory of the Serbians.
And I remember another fête--the "Grande Fête du 75," held in the Cairo International Sporting Club's grounds, in honour of the 75 millimetre field gun of the French, and in aid of the sick and wounded soldiers of the "Army of the East," then at the Dardanelles. There was a great crowd present. In the viceregal stand was a distinguished gathering of generals, consuls, ministers and diplomats. Scores of beautiful French girls, escorted by British officers--by way of emphasizing the Entente Cordiale, no doubt--meandered amongst the crowd selling commemorative medals. There were military sports by day, and there was a torchlight procession round the arena and through the streets of Cairo by night.
Then we went back to our camp in the desert to wait for the word to "move on." But I will never forget those Egyptian nights ... and one girl of girls. Tall and stately, like a queen she moved amongst the revellers. The rest of the dancers were just the frame round her picture.... We danced. Her blue eyes laughed into mine.... And the world has never been the same world since.
HEROES OF APRIL 25
WAITING FOR THE CALL--A RIOT IN CAIRO--MAORIS ON THEIR DIGNITY--GENERAL BIRDWOOD ARRIVES--WOUNDED AUSTRALIANS--A FRENCH OFFICER'S TRIBUTE--THE PROBLEM OF THE DARDANELLES--SPIES EVERYWHERE--A TRICK OF THE OLD GUARDS--LOSS OF GALLANT OFFICERS--BRAVE MEDICOS.
Some of the Australians and New Zealanders had already got the call, but we of the Light Horse still waited--growing more and more impatient every day. I have vivid recollections of a captain swearing. I have still more vivid recollections of a certain private's reminiscences. It was generally thought that he had spent some time in hell, or Booligal, so familiarly did he speak of the infernal regions. I remember his saying--but no, I will not repeat it.
Chiefly do I remember the riot. It seemed that something must be done to stir the authorities up; and some of the "hot heads" got up a riot in Cairo. They went into Cairo singing "There'll be a hot time in the old town to-night"; and sure enough there was. It was not meant to be quite so hot as it turned out. Things have a way of shaping themselves sometimes. Nobody could tell afterwards exactly how it all happened; but before the night was spent some houses had been burned down, some shots had been fired and some men had been wounded. There were some Australians, some New Zealanders, some Maoris and a few Territorials in it. And it all happened so simply. Some publicans and other sinners presumed to treat the Maoris as "niggers." This was too much for the New Zealanders, and they began to pull some of the furniture out of a public-house, and to make a bonfire of it in the street, the while the Maoris danced a war dance round it.
One or two other bonfires were started. The native police rolled up and kept the crowd back, one of the police inspectors remarking that it would be a good thing for Cairo if a few more of the "dens" were burned down. "I've been wishing for a fire among these rotten tenements for a long time," he said, "and now the fire-engines are coming, and it looks as if they'll be saved again!"
The fire-engine came clattering up the street. The soldiers raided it. In self-defence the firemen repelled the attack with the fire-hose. The soldiers renewed the attack and, reinforcements having arrived, captured the hose and turned it on the firemen, completely routing them. Then they cut the hose up--and the Maoris went on with their "haka."
But in the end, of course, law and order had to prevail. Other engines came upon the scene, escorted by a squadron of Territorial Dragoons. The soldiers cooled down. The fires were put out. There's a lot more about this battle of the Wazir, but I cannot tell it.
Not creditable, of course. Not quite the sort of thing they had been sent there for. But human nature is human nature, and a crowd of soldiers is a crowd of soldiers, and bad grog will make the best of soldiers bad, especially in Cairo; and the evil that's in men must come out of them as well as the good. Hence to call the Maoris "niggers"--well, who can blame the New Zealanders for resenting it, and who can blame the Australians for siding with the New Zealanders, or the Territorials for assisting their Oversea brethren, when we have Mr. Asquith's own word for it that "Who touches them touches us"? Not creditable!--but human nature--British brotherhood! And high spirits, and the chafing under the monotony of camp life in Egypt! Trooper Bluegum, at all events, long ago forgave them. The same men were among those who were to create for themselves and their country, in the words of General Ian Hamilton, "An imperishable record of military virtue." Many of them are no more. Maoris and all have given their lives cheerfully for their Empire and the sacred cause of Right. Let us remember their virtues and forget their faults.
There came a day when there was sudden movement in the camp. General Birdwood had arrived--one of Kitchener's "hard riding" generals, with a wonderful string of medals and decorations--and there were other "signs of the zodiac" pointing to our early departure. When at last, at the "Stadium," Colonel Ryrie announced to us of the 2nd Light Horse that we were to make ready, you could have heard the cheering miles away. The residents of Ma'adi, when they heard it, thought peace had been declared!
It was the arrival of our Australian wounded back from the Dardanelles that settled it. It was a wrench to leave our horses behind--the dear old horses that we petted and loved, the horses that were a very part of us--but it had to be done. When we saw our fellows coming back with their wounds upon them--when we heard of what they had been through--when we listened to their story of that wonderful landing on Gallipoli on April 25, and of the wild charge they made up the frowning hill--all of us, to a man, begged to be sent to the front as infantry! We were Light Horsemen, and we hadn't been trained as infantry, but it didn't matter--we were soldiers of the King!
I saw the Red Crescent train as it steamed in loaded with the wounded, and I went to the base hospital to see and chat with the men who knew now what war was--the men who had clamoured so impatiently for so many weeks to be sent where "the fighting" was, and then came back again to be nursed in an Egyptian hospital! Yet they were happy. They had "done their bit." They smoked cigarettes and yarned about their experiences. I watched the slightly wounded ones marching from the train to the hospital--an unforgettable sight. Most of them were shot about the arms or scalp. Their uniforms had dried blood all over them, and were torn about where the field doctors had ripped off sleeves or other parts to get at the wounds. As they marched irregularly along, one young fellow with his arm in a sling and a flesh wound in the leg limped behind and shouted out: "Hey, you chaps, don't make it a welter!"
Our men were just splendid in the fight. An Imperial officer who has been all over France and Flanders said that Colonel Maclagan's Australian Brigade was the finest brigade of infantry in the whole of the Allied armies. That was praise indeed. And I remember another fine tribute that was paid to them. "No troops in the whole world could possibly have done better than those magnificent Australian infantry. They performed the impossible. In the face of exploding mines and withering fire from machine guns, shrapnel and rifles, they stormed the hills and, with bloody bayonets, routed the Turks and Germans." That was a tribute the more valuable because it was not an Australian who spoke, neither was it an Englishman, but a Frenchman. It was the remark of a French naval officer who watched the landing of the Australian Division on Gallipoli. And when the whole tale was told the world saw how rightly our boys deserved all that was said of them.
What a terribly expensive business it was all to be! How many brave Australians and New Zealanders--yes, and Englishmen, Frenchmen and Indians--were yet to be sacrificed! It is well that the Great Ruler over all, Who holds us in the hollow of His hands, does not permit poor mortals to see into the future. The "forcing of the Dardanelles"--the words were on the lips of all of us and were printed in newspapers all over the world--it seemed only a matter of a little while, and then----
Great is the British Navy, magnificent are its officers and men, but hellish was the work of "forcing the Dardanelles." You remember how the _Goliath_ and the _Irresistible_ went down. You remember how a great French ship--the _Bouvet_--was sunk. You remember the mines that came down the waters, and the shore torpedoes, and the strength of the Turkish forts, the power of the Turkish guns, erected and manned by German officers. The Navy could not force the Dardanelles alone! It was necessary to have the co-operation of land forces. Perhaps the operations should never have been begun until the Army was ready to co-operate. I do not know; it is not for me to judge.
General Sir Ian Hamilton first visited the Dardanelles and carried out a reconnaissance on one of the warships and then came to Egypt--a lightning visit--and our forces began to move. Australia, for the first time, was right up against the Hun! South Africa was a picnic to it.
There were spies everywhere. There were spies in the transports, spies amongst the interpreters, spies in the supply depots. The Turks, or rather their German officers, were kept informed of every move the Allies made. They knew exactly the hour of disembarkation and the places of landing. They learned all the Australian bugle calls and used them with telling effect. The French landed and formed up as if on parade, and then, with beautiful precision, marched on and drove the enemy before them. The British, despite the fusillade which greeted them on landing, were steady as veterans and there was no hope of withstanding their landing.
But there was an electric quality about the charge of the Australians that inspired panic in the Turkish trenches. Fiercely angry at the loss of several of their officers, they charged with fixed bayonets, not waiting for supports.
One charge was led by a doctor; another by a priest. Several times they charged so fiercely that they looked like getting out of hand. Scorning cover, they also scorned rifle fire. They scaled the steel-lined heights like demons. It was the bayonet all the time. One huge farmer actually bayoneted a Turk through the chest and pitchforked him over his shoulder. The man who performed this feat was a huge Queenslander--Sergeant Burne, of the 9th Battalion, who was afterwards wounded and returned to his Australian home--a man whose modesty is as great as his size. We smiled at first when we heard the story, and people in England and Australia read of it with amazement. But Sergeant Burne, standing over six feet high, and massively proportioned, looks quite capable of the feat. He himself tells the story in these words: "It is not a case for me to take any credit at all," he said. "I was in the platoon that landed first on the right. Our lieutenant was the first man to get ashore--and as game a man as ever faced fire. I followed him. I was ordered to take in hand a line of Turkish sharpshooters who were causing a lot of trouble. There was also a machine-gun on the hill. Somebody had to stop it. Myself and two lads went up, and we stopped it. That's all. There were ten Turks there. We got the Turks and we got the machine-gun, but I lost my two lads. They were only boys, but let me tell you the Australians are the best fighters in the world. One of the lads 'fixed' the German officer who was working the machine-gun. The Turks were higher up than we were, and I suppose that is how I was able to throw one of them over my shoulder. It's an old trick that is taught in the Guards."
Sergeant Burne once served in the Irish Guards, and he carries a scar on his forehead, the result of a blow from the butt-end of a rifle at Rhenosterkop, during the South African war. He had been living in Australia for about six years when the Great War broke out, and he was one of the first to answer the Empire's call. His stay on Gallipoli was short, for on the same day as that on which he performed the feat of which I have written he received a bullet in the shoulder.
"It was a very short experience," he said, "but I'll be back there again."
And that was, and is, the spirit of them all.
It is sad to think that so many senior officers lost their lives right at the outset of the fighting in the Dardanelles. Australia could ill afford to lose men like Colonel Onslow Thompson, Colonel MacLaurin, Major F. D. Irvine and Colonel Braund. Colonel MacLaurin was in the act of warning soldiers to be certain to keep behind cover when he was shot in the head. He was hurriedly conveyed to the rear, but only lingered half an hour. Curiously enough, he had a presentiment that he would be killed, and mentioned it to one of our Light Horse officers just before leaving for the Dardanelles.
[Illustration: 1. Col. McCay, Brigadier 2nd Australian Infantry Brigade. Wounded.
2. Lt.-Col. C. F. Cox, C.B., Commanding 6th Light Horse Regt.
3. Lt.-Col. Hubert Harris, 5th Light Horse Regt. Killed.
4. Col. M. Laurin, Brigadier 1st Australian Infantry Brigade. Killed.
5. Lt.-Col. Braund, V.D., O.C., 2nd Batt. 1st Infantry Brigade. Killed.
6. Lt.-Col. Onslow-Thompson. Killed.]
It was a wicked trick that resulted in the slaughter of so many gallant men of the 1st (N.S.W.) Battalion. They had been holding the line splendidly, despite shrapnel and maxim fire and rifles, and had repulsed several attacks by the enemy. Then a message was passed down the line for the battalion to attack and capture the guns in front. Not doubting the genuineness of the order, the battalion charged, only to be met with a withering fire, which immediately told them that a trap had been set.
Their leader, Colonel Onslow Thompson, was killed instantaneously by a cannon shot which struck him in the head. He was one of the first to volunteer in Sydney when war broke out. Colonel Arnott knew that Colonel Onslow Thompson was a splendid Light Horse officer, and begged of him to wait for a mounted regiment. "No," he replied, "I'm going, and I'll take the first chance that offers."
The casualties among the officers were tremendous--brave men who led Australia's soldiers in that awful charge! And among the bravest of them were the young officers from the Duntroon Military College that stands amid delightful country surroundings near the capital of Federated Australia that is now in the making in the Mother State of New South Wales. These young fellows fought in a way that showed their native courage and the excellence of their training. Only the year before, when Sir Ian Hamilton, as Inspector-General of the Oversea Forces, visited Australia and inspected these lads who were training for the army at Duntroon, as the representative of the _Sydney Morning Herald_ I remember seeing them laugh and cheer when Sir Ian Hamilton, on leaving Duntroon, jokingly wished them "plenty of wars and rapid promotion." And it seems only a few days since we were dancing and flirting in a Cairo ballroom. Now many of them lie sorely wounded at the base hospital, and several will never again hear the réveillé. But the College will not forget its firstfruits offered up so gladly for empire. Officers and men, it was all the same--they went to their death with a cheer for King and Country. I heard an Imperial officer, newly returned from Flanders, say that the 3rd Australian Infantry Brigade was the finest brigade of infantry in the whole of the allied armies. In physique they were far superior to any of the British, French, or Belgian troops. Whether this be true or not, there is no doubt that the sturdy Thirds under Colonel Maclagan fought like Trojans on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and covered themselves with glory. Incidentally, I might mention, some of them never fired a shot during the fierce fighting of April 25. They simply trusted to the cold steel, and flung themselves at the Turkish trenches. The 1st Brigade (Colonel MacLaurin), the 2nd (Colonel McCay), and the rest of the Australians and New Zealanders fought with equal valour, but the brunt of the attack was borne by the Thirds. So many hundred gallant lives was a heavy price to pay for a footing in Gallipoli, but those impetuous charges, absolutely irresistible in their fury, would, we knew, bear rich fruit, for the Turks could never again withstand a bayonet charge by the Australians.
It was noteworthy that only a few thousand prisoners were taken. I asked one of the 1st Battalion boys (Lieutenant-Colonel Dobbin's command) why that was. He replied: "How could 12,000 of us take prisoners when we were up against 35,000?"
And through it all our Army Medical Corps did yeoman service. Several stretcher-bearers were shot, for they dashed forward too soon to succour the wounded. The doctors were right up in the firing-line all the while. Colonel Ryan and some other doctors were attending to serious cases on the beach, where the landing was effected, and snipers shot two orderlies who were assisting, one on each side of the colonel.
I doubt if there was a single branch of the service that did not suffer and share in the glory of that charge.
General Bridges handled his gallant Australians with consummate skill. He seemed to anticipate the Turkish attacks. His dispositions for defence were brilliant. Then General Godley and his New Zealanders landed and threw themselves into the fray. General Birdwood came and took charge of the Australian, New Zealand Army Corps ... A.N.Z.A.C.! From that fateful day, April 25, Anzac has been a name to conjure with.
THE TURK GERMANIZED--ATTACKS AND COUNTER-ATTACKS--SNIPERS ABOUT--"BIG LIZZIE" AT WORK--SOLDIERS' HOME LETTERS--TIRED OF WAITING--OFF AT LAST.
"Bah!" he exclaimed as he lit his cigarette. "The Turks can't shoot for nuts! But the German machine-guns are the devil, and the shrapnel is no picnic!"
His arm was in a sling, and his leg was bandaged from hip to ankle. But he was cheerful as could be, as proud as Punch, and as chirpy as a gamecock. For he was one of the band of Australian heroes, wounded and back from the front. And we who listened to the deathless story of the wild charge they made could not help wishing we had shared in the glories of that fight.
"It's the Germans we're up against," he went on. "You see they have taught the Turks all sorts of nasty tricks. One of the tricks is to surrender just at the last minute. One Turk in a trench shot my pal on my right and a chap on my left; then when we got right into the trench he suddenly dropped his rifle and put up his hands. I reckoned that wasn't fair, so I jammed my bayonet into him. Time and again the Turks would shoot till we were right on top of them, and then drop guns and surrender. Call that fair fighting?"
Another chap with his tunic all clotted with blood and his head in a bandage here interpolated: "Say, you needn't fear the Turks' shooting. It's safer to be in the firing-line than in the reserves. But look out for those machine-guns; they spit death at you at the rate of ten a second. Also, keep your eyes open for the snipers. We drove them back for miles behind Sari Bair, but there were snipers everywhere. They never minded being killed so long as they could pick off a few officers. One black devil shot our captain at only fifty yards. Five of us got to him, and gave him just what Brutus, Cassius, Casca and the rest gave Julius Cæsar."
"We fought them for three days after landing," said a big bushman in the 2nd Brigade, "and they made about a dozen counter-attacks. But when we had a chance of sitting down and letting them charge us it was dead easy--just like money from home. They never got near enough to sample the bayonets again. But on the 27th they tried to get all over us. They let the artillery work overtime, and we suffered a bit from the shrapnel. The noise was deafening. Suddenly it ceased, and a new Turkish division was launched at us. This was just before breakfast. There is no doubt about the bravery of the Turks. But we were comfortably entrenched, and it was their turn to advance in the open. We pumped lead into them till our rifles were too hot to hold. Time and again they came on, and each time we sent them about their business. At three o'clock we got tired of slaughtering them that way, so we left our little home in the trench and went after them again with the bayonet."
"Say, what do you think of 'Big Lizzie'?" asked another blood-bespattered Cornstalk. "Ain't she the dizzy limit?"
Is it necessary to explain that this was the affectionate way our fellows alluded to the super-Dreadnought _Queen Elizabeth_? The soldier continued: "All the while our transports were landing, 'Big Lizzie' just glided up and down like an old hen watching her chickens. Every now and then the Turkish destroyers from Nagara tried to cut in and smash up the transports. But the moment 'Lizzie' got a move on they skedaddled. One ship was just a bit slow. Didn't know that 'Big Liz' could hit ten miles off. Shell landed fair amidships, and it was good night, nurse."
One of the 9th Battalion (Queenslanders, under Colonel Lee) chipped in here: "Ever tried wading through barbed wire and water with maxims zipping all round you?"
This pertinent question explained the severe losses of the 3rd Brigade. The landing was effected simultaneously at several points on the peninsula, but one spot was a hornet's nest and they started to sting when the Australians reached the beach. A couple of boats were upset and several sailors and soldiers killed. Others dashing into the shallow water were caught in the barbed wire.
"My legs are tattooed prettier than a picture," added the Queenslander, "and I've a bit of shrapnel shell here for a keepsake, somewhere under my shoulder."
"Fancy ten thousand miles and eight months' training all for nix," said a disgusted corporal. "Landed at 4 a.m. Shot at three seconds past four. Back on the boat at 5 a.m."
And so on.
To have gone through all they had gone through, and then to treat it all so lightly, seemed an extraordinary thing. All the doctors and nurses commented on the amazing fortitude and cheerfulness of the Australian wounded. I used to think the desire to be in the thick of things, that I had so often heard expressed, was make-believe, but I know better now. I used to say myself that I "wanted to be there" (and _sotto voce_ I used to add "I don't think"); and now, in my heart-searchings, I began to wonder if I didn't really mean it, after all. I used to strike an attitude and quote, "One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name," whilst all the time I felt in my heart that I would prefer a crowded age of glorious life to an hour of fame. Now I began to wonder whether in my heart's core, in my very heart of hearts, I did not agree with the poet. The proper study of mankind is Oneself. And what was I doing there, anyway?
Yes, it was extraordinary--not a doubt of it. Doctors and nurses said they never saw anything like it in the world. Those soldiers back from the Dardanelles, many of them sorely wounded, were laughing and joking all day, chatting cheerfully about their terrible experiences, and itching to get back again and "do for the dirty Turks"!
"Nurse," said one of them, with a shattered leg, as he raised himself with difficulty, "will you write a little note for me?"
She came over and sat at the side of the bed, paper and pencil in hand.
"'My dear mother and father, I hope this letter finds you as well as it leaves me at present.'... How's that for a beginning, nurse?" he said with a smile.
I heard of another man who sent a letter from the Dardanelles. It ran: "Dear Aunt, this war is a fair cow. Your affectionate nephew." Just that, and nothing more. The Censor, I have no doubt, would think it a pity to cut anything out of it.
I heard of another, and at the risk of an intrusion into the private affairs of any of our soldiers, I make bold to give it. It was just this: "My darling Helen, I would rather be spending the evening with you than with two dead Turks in this trench. Still it might be worse, I suppose."
Those cheerful Australians!
Can you wonder that the Light Horse wanted to get a move on and make a start for the front? Can you wonder that when we heard of the terrible list of casualties which were the price of victory, and when we saw our men coming back, many of them old friends, with their battle-scars upon them, we fretted and fumed impatiently? We had a church parade, and the chaplain, Captain Keith Miller, preached from the text, "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us," and it only made us angry. There was only one text that appealed to us, and that was "How long, O Lord, how long?"
We could stand it no longer. Our boys needed reinforcements, and that was all we cared about. They must have reinforcements. It would be some days before men could arrive from England and France. Sir Ian Hamilton wanted men to push home the attack and ensure the victory. We knew that no cavalry could go for a couple of weeks, and our fellows were just "spoiling for a fight." They were sick and tired of the endless waiting, with wild rumours of moving every second day. Men from all the troops and squadrons went to their officers and volunteered to go as infantry, if only they could go at once. B Squadron, 6th Regiment, volunteered _en masse_.
Colonel Ryrie, accurately gauging the temper of the men, summoned the regimental commanders, Lieutenant-Colonel Cox, Lieutenant-Colonel Harris and Lieutenant-Colonel Arnott. What happened at this little Council of War we don't know. But we guess. Word was sent on to the general that the whole brigade would leave for the front within an hour, on foot if necessary.
A similar offer had just been made by the 1st Light Horse Brigade (Colonel Chauvel) and the 1st Brigade of New Zealand Mounted Rifles.
What it cost these gallant horsemen to volunteer and leave their horses behind only horsemen can guess. Colonel Ryrie's brigade was said to be the best-horsed brigade in Egypt. Scores of men had brought their own horses. After eight months of soldiering we were deeply attached to our chargers. Fighting on foot was not our forte. We were far more at home in the saddle. But Colonel Ryrie expressed the dominant thought of the men when he said: "My brigade are mostly bushmen, and they never expected to go gravel-crushing, but if necessary the whole brigade will start to-morrow on foot, even if we have to tramp the whole way from Constantinople to Berlin."
There was cheering all along the line when the news filtered through. Men who had of late been swearing at the heat and dust and the flies and the desert suddenly became jovial again. At dinner they passed the joke along, sang songs, and cheered everybody, from Kitchener to Andy Fisher, and the brigadier down to the cooks and the trumpeters.
So we are off at last, after weary months of waiting--on foot. Blistered heels and trenches ahead; but it's better than sticking here in the desert doing nothing.
AT THE DARDANELLES
ON THE MOVE--SEND-OFF FROM MA'ADI--THE BLUE MEDITERRANEAN--OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE A.L.H.--A COLLISION--AN AIR RECONNAISSANCE--OUR COLONEL ADDRESSES HIS MEN
As I sit and gaze over the limpid waters of Aboukir Bay I think of the old-time rivalry of France and Britain, and the struggle for the possession of Egypt.
In 'ninety-eight we chased the foe Right into Bouky Bay!
These are the opening lines of the old sea ditty which describes how Nelson won the Battle of the Nile. Right here it was that the _Orient_--flagship of the French admiral--was blown up.
And now, a hundred years after, we see French and British warships again off Alexandria. But this time the Union Jack and the Tricolour are intertwined, and in the streets of Alexandria French and British soldiers and sailors walk arm in arm, while the ancient city is gay with flags and bunting. For big things are brewing in the Levant. Before the eyes of the citizens during the past week was a unique international naval and military pageant--Zouaves, with their blue jackets and red trousers, French infantry in their blue-grey uniform, cavalry with gay tunics, British Jack Tars in blue and white, Australians in sombre khaki, swarthy-skinned Maoris from the Wonderland of the Southern Seas, and dusky warriors from the Punjab. British troops--and especially those young giants from Australia--had the better of the Frenchman in the matter of physique; but there was clear evidence of "grit" in the intelligent, humorous faces of the French, which helped one to understand why, for instance, they are said to be the finest marchers in Europe, and why the Germans never got to Paris!
At last the Australian Division is on the move. After weary weeks of waiting the order has come. There were wild cheers at Mena when the news buzzed round; lusty cheering at Zeitoun when the New Zealanders heard it; more wild cheering at Heliopolis and Abassia as the message flashed further afield. Out at Mena camp there was great excitement as battalion after battalion marched away, encouraged by the cheers of their comrades behind. Trams brimming over with jubilant human freight moved off from Mena House, and glided along the well-known road to Cairo, where trains were waiting to convey the men to Alexandria. At Alexandria the transports were waiting to take us to the Dardanelles. Turkey, forgetting the traditional friendship of Great Britain, had allowed Germany to bluff her into invading Egypt. Now, in return, Britain was knocking at the front door--the impregnable front door of Constantinople.
We had a final concert in the cinema tent, and it was a huge success. The good folk of Ma'adi rolled up in full force. Charles Knowles, the famous baritone, came out and sang "The Trumpeter" and "My old Shako" and "The Old Brigade" and "Land of Hope and Glory," and we all joined in the choruses. The brigadier made a farewell speech, and thanked the residents for all their kindness to the men of the 2nd Brigade. He said we were sorry to part with such good friends, but were glad at last to have a chance of striking a blow for freedom and justice and the grand old flag of the Empire. Of course, we cheered all the time, and we laughed when genial Mr. Hopkins, President of the Citizen's Committee, farewelled us with the words, "God bless you" and "God help the Turks if you get at them with the bayonet."
We marched away at last. British folk at Ma'adi and Cairo were enthusiastic, and gave us a great farewell. Some of the "gyppies" and Arabs along the roadway were sullenly passive and apathetic. At the main station, Cairo, crowds of soldiers assembled to cheer the horseless horsemen. "We went to South Africa as infantry, and they mounted us," said a philosophic Riverina grazier. "Now, we come to North Africa as Light Horsemen, and they bundle us off as infantry."
We profited by the experience of the infantry. Our officers dressed exactly like the men. They carried rifles and wore bandoliers. All their pretty uniforms that they "swanked" in at the continental dances and dinners went by the board, and they roughed it in service jackets and hobnailed boots.
Seen from aloft, the 2nd Light Horse embarking resembled nothing so much as a swarm of khaki ants covering the quays at Alexandria. They scurried hither and thither, and to the onlooker it seemed all confusion worse confounded by the arrival of additional trains from Cairo.
But the confusion was more apparent than real. One noticed soon that all the soldiers going to the transports were loaded with arms and ammunition and stores. Those coming from the ships were empty-handed. And soon the trains rattled off, the wharves were cleared and all the troops were aboard. But there were no fond farewells this time. All the folk who were near and dear to us were far, far away. A coffee stall on the quay "manned" by the Y.W.C.A. worked overtime from four o'clock in the morning, and our fellows were very grateful to the ladies of Alexandria who did us this kindness. They wished us "Good luck," and we glided out. There were no cheers or sirens to hearten us. That was all past. We were starting off in grim earnest this time. A few embarkation officers and transport officials on the wharf called out "Good luck, boys"; and that was all.
Half an hour later we were out on the Mediterranean--the blue Mediterranean--and we thought of all the fleets that in the centuries gone by had sailed these waters--Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, Spaniards, Turks, French and British. Our ship was numbered A25--the _Lutzow_, one of the many German liners that had fallen to the mighty British Navy. And on board were crowded 2,000 men. No horses! Our gallant steeds had all been left behind at Ma'adi, ready to follow the moment we drove the Turks from the hills and reached "cavalry country." Our boys had had the chance of coming without horses or stopping behind; they never hesitated for a moment.
"Submarine," whispered some one the first day out. And all eyes searched the waters round us. But no submarine had been seen. We had simply been warned that there was a Turkish submarine somewhere outside the Dardanelles. So the brigadier, Colonel Ryrie, took steps to give it a warm reception in case it poked its nose--its periscope--above the surface of the sea.
The whole brigade was remarkably happy. Despite the fact that within a couple of days these men would be fighting for their lives, despite the fact that their comrades of the Australian Infantry had just suffered 4,000 casualties in four days, they went as cheerily forward as their relations in Sydney went to the Easter Show. And that reminds me that right here near the Dardanelles I came across a copy of the Easter number of the _Sydney Mail_. What a joy it was to escape the war pictures for a brief while and see, instead, the photographs of prize pumpkins, of milking shorthorns, and the great stock parade, and the high jump, and all the other attractions of one of the greatest shows on earth! It was just like a message of good cheer from sunny New South Wales.
We had left Alexandria under sealed orders. We had to meet a certain warship in a certain place and get certain instructions. We travelled at night with all lights out, and threaded our way with care through the Archipelago. Passing Rhodes and Crete and Tenedos, we reached the scene of what has been described as the most picturesque phase of the Great World War--the attack on the Dardanelles.
There had been many changes in the brigade, since the men first went into camp at Rosebery Park, Sydney, nine months before. Nearly a thousand men passed through Colonel Cox's regiment before it finally started out to smash the Turk and thrash the Hun. There had been changes also amongst the officers, and as the exact list has never been published and many of these officers were soon to lay down their lives in the service of their country, let me give their names here--a permanent record which will be cherished by those officers and men who remain and by the families of all the brave dead.
Headquarters Staff: Brigadier, Colonel Granville Ryrie; Brigade Major, Major T. J. Lynch; Staff Captain, Captain R. V. Pollok; Orderly Officer, Lieutenant Oliver Hogue; Field Cashier, Lieutenant B. E. Alderson.
5th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland): Lieutenant-Colonel Hubert Harris, V.D., Major L. C. Wilson, Major H. H. Johnson, Major S. Midgley, D.S.O., Captain P. D. Robinson, Captain Donald Cameron, Captain J. C. Ridley, Captain G. P. Donovan, Captain J. E. Dods (Medical Officer), Chaplain Captain Michael Bergin, Lieutenants Pike, Nimmo, Chatham, Wright, Hanley, Fargher, Rutherford, McNeill, Irving, Bolingbroke, McLaughlin, Lyons and Brundrit.
6th Light Horse Regiment (New South Wales): Lieutenant-Colonel C. F. Cox, C.B., V.D., Major C. D. Fuller, Major W. T. Charley, Major F. D. Oatley, Major J. F. White, Captain G. C. Somerville, Captain (Medical) A. Verge, Chaplain Captain Robertson, Captain H. A. D. White, Captain M. F. Bruxner, Lieutenants Richardson, Ferguson, Anderson, Huxtable, Cross, Roy Hordern, H. Ryrie, Robson, Cork and Garnock.
7th Light Horse Regiment (New South Wales): Lieutenant-Colonel J. M. Arnott, Major G. M. Onslow, Major E. Windeyer, Major T. L. Rutledge, Major H. B. Suttor, Captain (Medical) T. C. C. Evans, Chaplain Captain J. Keith Miller, Captain J. D. Richardson, Lieutenants Board, Elliott, Fulton, Bice, Higgins, Hession, Gilchrist, Stevenson, Maddrell, Bird, Barton and Lake.
Brigade Train: Lieutenant R. G. Bosanquet and Lieutenant G. D. Smith.
Field Ambulance: Lieutenant Colonel Bean, Major D. G. Croll, Captains Fraser, McDonnel, Pitcher and Buchanan.
Signal Troop: Captain R. A. Stanley.
[Illustration: Officers of the 6th Australian Light Horse Regiment, 2nd Light Horse Brigade.
Left to right.--Standing at back: Lieut. R. N. Richardson, Lieut. J. M. Chisholm, Lieut. D. Drummond, Capt. L. McLaglan, Lieut. G. Ferguson, Lieut. R. Hordern, Lieut. H. S. Ryrie.
Sitting: Capt. H. O'Brien, Capt. M. F. Bruxner, Major F. J. White, Major C. D. Fuller, Lt.-Col. C. F. Cox, C.B., V.D., Lieut. M. D. Russell, Capt. A. Verge, R.M.O., Capt. H. A. D. White.
In front: Lieut. N. M. Pearce and Lieut. W. M. Anderson.]
The exact strength of the brigade as it entered Turkish waters was 76 officers and 1,455 other ranks. Back at Ma'adi we had left about twenty-five per cent of our men and all our horses. Major Righetti, of the 5th Light Horse Regiment, had been appointed Camp Commandant, and we were hoping that in a couple of weeks at the latest he and his merry men would join us and then, once more mounted, we would canter gaily along the Gallipoli road to Constantinople. We were mostly young and optimistic! We were soon to find what a long, long road it was.
It seemed as if they had made special arrangements for a fine big bombardment just to let the Light Horse see how it was done. As the 2nd Light Horse Brigade arrived off Gallipoli we were eyewitnesses of a spectacular bombardment that thrilled us. It was about seven o'clock on the evening of May 18 that our transport glided in between Tenedos and Imbros and anchored off Helles. Long before we anchored we could hear the rumbling of heavy artillery, and we knew that the fleet was busy. Soon we saw the intermittent flashes of the guns, and then there loomed up out of the dusk the spectre-like shapes of the allied warships. A long, impregnable-looking line they made, stretching from Kum Kale north and west, and north again, till they were lost to sight in the murky pall which was fast settling down on the Ægean Sea.
All night long the firing continued, but we slept just as soundly as we had done out on the desert at Ma'adi. By sunrise the troopers were astir, crowding the rigging and watching with intense interest the panorama spread before them. As the sun peeped over the hills we could see the tents of the field hospital whitening in the growing light. All around us were warships and transports and colliers and supply ships of all descriptions. Here and there were the low grey hulls of destroyers streaking across the waters. From our warships came a desultory fire on the Turkish trenches.
So intent were we as we watched the camp of the Allies that we never noticed that our own vessel had dragged its anchor and was fast bearing down on a French transport a few cable-lengths off. The ships came together with a crunch that startled us. We thought for the moment that we had either been torpedoed or rammed. Then the nose of the Frenchman crunched along our port side, smashing stanchions and gangways, twisting sheet iron into fantastic shapes and breaking horse-boxes into matchwood. The active troopers all sprang free of the danger--all but one, who was so intent on adjusting his puttees that he never noticed what was happening. First thing he knew was when an anchor fluke caught him bending and drove him with the force of a battering ram headlong amongst the pans and dixies. His angry "Imshi yaller" was drowned in the roar of laughter from his comrades.
Just before breakfast an airman went up--up with the lark. He flew up the Dardanelles towards the Narrows, cut across Maidos to the Australian Division, doubled back, then swung round over our heads and turned in and landed. A valuable reconnaissance was made, the report was sent to headquarters, and then the airman strolled into breakfast. This man and his aeroplane were a target for Turkish shells and German gunners all the time. Shell after shell burst around him, but he took not the slightest notice--he said afterwards, with a laugh, that they were quite "beneath his notice." At one time we counted eight shell-bursts round about the aeroplane. It seemed to us who watched him that the aviator must have borne a charmed life.
Every time I see an air pilot I feel like saluting him. Colonel Ryrie said that morning, when he saw the spot on which our infantry had landed: "After that, I'll take off my hat to the Australian soldier every time." And that's how I feel about those gallant airmen.
The enemy's gunners were good; there was no doubt of that, even though they failed to "wing" the aeroplane. They next turned their attention and their fire on the British trenches. For a while the shells flew wide. Some fell into the sea; others burst high. Then they got the range, and kept it. To what extent our comrades suffered, or how well they were dug in, we could not see. But the warships soon got to work and silenced the enemy's guns. Then we went in to breakfast.
Just before we disembarked Colonel Ryrie addressed the assembled soldiers. He said his only fear was that they would be too impetuous. Their comrades who had gone before had made history. Their courage and dash and their invincible charge on a well-nigh impregnable position would be a theme for historians throughout the ages. Their only fault was--they were too brave. They were ordered to take one strongly-fortified line of trenches and they actually took three. Concluding, the brigadier said: "If I get back to Australia and some of you fellows don't, I know I shall be able to tell your people that you fought and died like heroes. If you get back and I don't, I hope you will be able to tell my countrymen that Colonel Ryrie played the game."
FIRST WEEK OF TRENCH WORK--OUR NEAR NEIGHBOURS--SNIPING--BOMBS AND AEROPLANES--SIR IAN HAMILTON'S SPECIAL FORCE ORDER--THE "PENINSULA PRESS"--TO BURY THE DEAD TURKS--VENIZELOS--"WHERE STANDS GREECE?"--THE "LUSITANIA" CRIME--SWIMMING IN THE ÆGEAN--THE ROAR OF ARTILLERY--DEATH OF COLONEL BRAUND, M.L.A.
We've had our first week in the trenches. The Turks have killed some of us, and we have killed some of them. They certainly fared the worst; and we agree with the chaplains that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
In some places our trenches are only seven yards from the Turks; in others they are 700. All day and night the sniping continues. Hand grenades and bombs are thrown to and fro. Aeroplanes circle aloft and drop bombs on the opposing trenches. When our aeroplane goes up the boys yell out: "Lay an egg on the Turkeys!" When the Taube drops bombs we "duck" to shelter. Most of our spare time we spend in dodging shrapnel. It's fine fun, but no one can guess where the splinters will fly to. We've all had the sorrow of seeing old comrades struck down at our sides, and yet we carry on cheerfully.
On Empire Day--five days after we landed--the Turks asked for an armistice to bury their dead. It took eight hours. In front of our trenches were 3,500 dead. We reckon that in the attack on our position on May 18-19 the enemy had at least 10,000 casualties. The Australians lost about 500. Time and again the Turks charged in solid phalanx, but withered away before the deadly fire of our riflemen. Whenever they did effect a breach they were speedily ejected by dashing bayonet attacks by the Australians and New Zealanders.
To-day--May 28--we are all in the highest spirits, for we have received a special "Force Order" from General Sir Ian Hamilton, and it shows that we have not been idle. Here is the order:--
"FORCE ORDER NO. 17.
"_May 25, 1915_.
"1. Now that a clear month has passed since the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force began its night and day fighting with the enemy, the General Commanding desires to explain to officers, non-commissioned officers and men the real significance of the calls made upon them to risk their lives, apparently for nothing better than to gain a few yards of uncultivated land.
"2. A comparatively small body of the finest troops in the world, French and British, have effected a lodgment close to the heart of a great continental empire, still formidable even in its decadence. Here they stand firm, or slowly advance, and in the efforts made by successive Turkish armies to dislodge them the rotten Government at Constantinople is gradually wearing itself out. The facts and figures upon which this conclusion is based have been checked and verified from a variety of sources. Agents of neutral powers possessing good sources of information have placed both the numbers and the losses of the enemy much higher than they are set forth here, but the General Commanding prefers to be on the safe side and to give his troops a strictly conservative estimate.
"Before operations began the strength of the defenders of the Dardanelles was:--
"Gallipoli Peninsula, 34,000 and about 100 guns.
"Asiatic side of Straits, 41,000.
"All the troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula and fifty per cent of the troops on the Asiatic side were Nizam, that is to say, regular first line troops. They were transferable, and were actually transferred to the side upon which the invaders disembarked. Our Expeditionary Force effected its landing, it will be seen, in the face of an enemy superior not only to the covering parties which got ashore the first day, but superior actually to the total strength at our disposal. By May 12 the Turkish army of occupation had been defeated in several engagements, and would have been at the end of their resources had they not meanwhile received reinforcements of 20,000 infantry and twenty-one batteries of Field Artillery.
"Still the Expeditionary Force held its own, and more than held its own, inflicting fresh bloody defeats upon the new-comers; and again the Turks must certainly have given way had not a second reinforcement reached the Peninsula from Constantinople and Smyrna, amounting at the lowest estimate to 24,000 men.
"3. From what has been said it will be understood that the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, supported by its gallant comrades of the Fleet, but with constantly diminishing effectives, has held in check or wrested ground from some 120,000 Turkish troops elaborately entrenched and supported by a powerful artillery.
"The enemy has now few more Nizam troops at his disposal and not many Redif or second-class troops. Up to date his casualties are 55,000, and again, in giving this figure, the General Commanding has preferred to err on the side of low estimates.
"Daily we make progress, and whenever the reinforcements close at hand begin to put in an appearance, the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force will press forward with a fresh impulse to accomplish the greatest Imperial task ever entrusted to an army.
"W. P. BRAITHWAITE, Major-General,
"Chief of General Staff,
"Mediterranean Expeditionary Force."
And I have by me a copy of the little one-page _Peninsula Press_ published at Sir Ian Hamilton's headquarters some distance from Anzac. It is No. 13, and is dated May 25, 1915; and it gives this "Official Account" of the enemy's losses:--"The burial of the dead on the Australian and New Zealand front was completed yesterday under the armistice asked for by the Turks. The number of the enemy's dead lying between the trenches was estimated at 3,500, counting only those who have fallen since May 18. Rifle fire broke out soon after the close of the armistice."
That _Peninsula Press_, little thing though it was, used to be read and re-read till we could almost repeat all its contents word for word. It gave us the war news on all fronts in a nutshell. In this particular number we read of the great Russian victory in East Galicia, when the Austrians were pushed back from the Dniester to the Pruth, and on a 100-mile battle-front the Russians took 20,000 prisoners in five days. We read of von Bethmann-Hollweg's threat to Italy--his threat to punish Germany's "faithless ally" who had seen fit to throw over the Powers of Darkness for those of Light and Freedom and Civilization. We read of the German losses between Steenstraete and Ypres, despite their use of asphyxiating gas which their enlightened scientists had been able to place at their disposal. We read this: "The British Navy has rescued 1,282 German seamen and marines from German warships sunk. Not one British seaman or marine has been saved by Germans in like circumstances." We read an extract from the Greek newspaper _Athinai_ relating to the elections in that country: "If the people give the victory to the party of M. Venizelos, then the Entente Powers will have no further anxiety concerning us; Greece will be ready for war in accordance with the programme of M. Venizelos and with the engagements he has assumed." (And the people did give the victory to M. Venizelos--but Greece, oh, where was she?) And this also we read in our paper: "The people of Gallipoli Town," says a Turkish correspondent, "have seen only four British (Australian) prisoners of war. The men excited great admiration among the people, because it was seen that they were indeed soldiers. They wandered about freely and drank coffee, creating great excitement by their queer remarks and causing no ill-feeling." And the _Lusitania_! We read the lines from _Punch_ of May 12--Britain to America, on the sinking of the _Lusitania_:
In silence you have looked on felon blows, On butcher's work of which the waste lands reek; Now, in God's name, from Whom your greatness flows, Sister, will you not speak?
We ourselves had seen a ship go down. We saw the _Triumph_ torpedoed. We saw her shiver from stem to stern--and then go down in the sea. She was a triumph of man's handiwork, and man's handiwork had destroyed her. The sea was very calm, but submarines and mines lurk in still waters as well as rough--and out of the calm sea came the thing of death. From the moment she was struck till she turned turtle but fourteen minutes elapsed. A dozen launches and torpedo boats rushed to rescue the crew, and all were saved except about forty. And we who saw it all from the trenches looked on at it stupefied. With a mighty lurch--as it were a giant in the agonies of death--the _Triumph_ heeled over and was gone.
Such things are done, and will be done, as long as there are Hymns of Hate in the world. War is a gruesome business.
Just as I walked out of my dug-out this morning two men were shot by a machine-gun not ten yards off--one in the shoulder and the other in the eye. Two seconds ago a big shrapnel shell burst right in front of our dug-out. The bullets flew everywhere, and we bolted to shelter. No one was injured. It is marvellous. Up to the present it has been the most wonderful week in my life--full of excitement and hair-breadth escapes.
Sunday came--May 30. The day dawned peacefully, minus the artillery duel which ordinarily heralds the coming day. The blue Mediterranean lay like a sea of glass at our feet. Imbros Island, opposite Anzac Cove, lay wreathed in the morning mists. Torpedo boats glided to and fro across the waters, lest some adventurous submarine should attack. All was peaceful. Ashore, the wild flowers blossomed on the hillsides. Birds chirruped contentedly in the scrub. Soldiers released from a night's vigil in the trenches sauntered along the winding road to the beach, dived in and sported freely in the sea. The transport mules munched contentedly, and the Indians lay back smoking hubble-bubbles. Light Horsemen (minus their horses) and infantrymen emerged from their dug-outs and stretched themselves lazily in the sun.
It was too good to last--too good altogether. Some activity behind the Turkish trenches attracted the attention of our artillery observation officers, and our guns boomed out a warning. It was evidently disregarded by the enemy, for more of our guns opened fire. Then the Turks replied. The hills around spat fire, and the valleys echoed and re-echoed with peals of thunder. Shrapnel shells and "Jack Johnsons" went screaming overhead, to burst with a deafening report over our trenches and bivouacs. Our guns were so cunningly concealed that the German artillery officers could not locate them, and for the most part their shells ploughed up the unoffending earth, or made harmless rents in the atmosphere. Our artillery had better success. Our guns tore down the Turkish trenches, and the Turks flying to shelter were met with a devastating fire from our machine-guns. Still, we did not have it all our own way. Now and then a shell landed in our trenches, and the story of it was told in the casualty lists.
About one o'clock the artillery duel began, and it continued without cessation for over an hour. The roar was awful. Bullets spattered everywhere. The marvel was that our losses were so few. Gradually the big guns grew silent. Our warships aimed a few salvos on to the enemy's position, then drew off. Soon there was comparative calm. There remained but the interminable fusillade of musketry which never wholly ceased on the trenches round Anzac.
At eventide the Ægean Sea took on new colourings. The sun set in a blaze of splendour; the whole western horizon was alight with its reflected brilliance. The islands seemed to rest against a superb canvas on which Nature had splashed lavishly a wealth of gold and rose-red and saffron and purple and amethyst. The sea in turn mirrored and accentuated the beauties of the scene. The angry armies gazed in quiet contemplation of Nature's craftsmanship, forgetting their mutual hate.
Up on Braund's Hill--where Colonel Braund, who used to sit for Armidale in the New South Wales Parliament, had met with a tragic fate soon after the historic landing was made--right at the entrance to the trenches in the firing-line, Divine Service was being held. In the days of my wanderings I have attended many church services, in shearing-sheds and on mining fields, on board troopships, and in the bush; but never had I attended such a service as this. Captain McKenzie, of the 1st Infantry Brigade, and Captain Robertson, of the 2nd Light Horse, were the officiating chaplains. Soldiers, unkempt, unshaven, unwashed, lolled around on the path or the hillside. Men coming from the trenches joined in the singing. Men going to the trenches for the night lingered awhile. And they sang the old well-known hymns. None asked for "Onward, Christian Soldiers," or any of the warlike hymns at all. They wanted the old gospel hymns. So we sang, "Jesus, Lover of My Soul," "Sweet Hour of Prayer," and "Abide with Me." ...
Firing had recommenced before we finished the service, and the chaplain's voice was now and then drowned in the rattle of musketry or the bursting of shrapnel. And because of the shells and bombs which continually burst overhead, we meant it when we sang "Cover my defenceless head with the shadow of Thy wing."
A few words of prayer, a few words of exhortation and commendation, and then the service was over. Some filed off to the trenches for the vigil of the night. Others formed up for the reserves. The rest of us returned to our dug-outs, to snuggle in while the roar of battle raged overhead. And one soon gets used to the battle noises. I fell asleep thinking of dear old New South Wales, my dear old home, and--my dear old mother.
STORIES THAT WILL NEVER DIE
"CANARIES"--THE SAVING GRACE--THE LOST HORSE BRIGADE--A FORGOTTEN COUNTER-SIGN--"LET'S AT 'EM"--POLITE TURK AND SULKY GERMAN--MURPHY'S MULES--MURPHY AT THE GATE
Life in the trenches became quite bearable--after a time. But it took time. At first when a bullet skimmed the parapet and went whistling overhead we ducked instinctively. But the experienced infantry laughed, and said, "They're only 'canaries'." Again, when the shrapnel came hurtling aloft and burst with an ugly roar, we crouched and waited for death; but the old hands explained that if we could hear it burst we were pretty safe. It was the shells we couldn't hear that we ought to dodge. We understood that epigrammatic utterance better later on.
But one thing is absolutely essential for a philosophic enjoyment of trench life--and that is a sense of humour. Failing that, most of the soldiers would in the end go stark, staring mad. It is this saving grace which makes our Australians such a wonderful fighting force. They go laughing into the firing-line. They come laughing out again. They laugh as they load and fire. Nearly every wounded man I've seen laughs. A staff officer said the other day: "It's only when they're killed that these Australians cease laughing."
Our three Australian Light Horse brigades have now been in the trenches for some time. "We came to Egypt as horsemen," said a Hunter River man; "then we did foot-slogging at Cairo and Alexandria, and now we're living in caves and tunnels, like rabbits or troglodytes."
Since the days of Darwin quite a lot has been written about evolution. But we never thought of evolution in connexion with our Light Horse Brigade. We soon found that we couldn't escape the process any more than the rest of the universe.
One would have thought that as new and awful weapons of destruction were evolved, battles would become short, sharp, and decisive. Instead of that, they are toilsome, long-drawn-out, and indecisive. I cannot say why. The elucidation of the problem I leave to the "experts." All I am concerned with is the story of how the 2nd Light Horse Brigade became the Lost Horse Brigade. Australia sent four Light Horse brigades to uphold the honour of the Commonwealth; first, Colonel Chauvel; second, Colonel Ryrie; third, Colonel Hughes; fourth, Colonel Brown. At first we thought we were going to be armed with swords as well as rifles. When first mounted, despite our sombre khaki, we felt as proud as Life Guardsmen. And we saw visions and dreamed dreams, and pictured the Australian Light Horse on the left wing of the Empire army driving the Huns in confusion over the Rhine and back to Berlin.
Hope on, hope ever. All we have done so far is, by process of devolution, to change from prospective cavalry to mounted infantry, to foot-sloggers, to pick and shovel artists, and finally to troglodytes. The pen is mightier than the sword--but so is the spade.
We did not like the packs at first. Our horses used to carry our kits, and it was rather irksome to be transformed suddenly into beasts of burden. Also, we imbibed a new respect for the infantry, who seemed to carry their heavy packs with consummate ease. Ours at first felt like the Burden to Christian. But gradually we, too, developed the necessary back and shoulder muscles for the infantryman's job. We trudged up and down the hills of Anzac; we filed into the trenches and took our stations at the loopholes; on the day of the armistice we helped to bury the dead Turks whom Enver Pasha had ordered to drive the Australians into the sea. Then it was that the infantry, seeing "2 L.H.B." on our shoulder straps, called us the 2nd _Lost_ Horse Brigade.
But we didn't mind losing our horses so long as we had a finger in the Gallipoli Pie. Trench warfare suited us well enough. The firing-line was always interesting. Everybody was light-hearted. Jokes and laughter passed the time pleasantly when we were not sniping or observing. It meant a little more work when the Turkish (or German) guns smashed in our parapets and half-choked, half-blinded and half-buried us. Now and then some of our chaps stopped a bullet or a bit of shrapnel. But we dealt out more than we got. Every day the Officer Commanding and the Brigadier made a tour of the firing-line, while we often had three generals to see us on special days. The day after the big attack General Birdwood asked one of the 1st Light Horse Regiment if he had killed many Turks, and he answered, "Yes, miles of the cows."
As a matter of fact the Australians were almost quarrelling for positions in the firing-line that night. When the fight was at its hottest, men in the supports were offering bribes of tobacco and cigarettes to the men in the firing-line to swap places with them just for ten minutes. Our night patrols had great fun harassing the enemy; but for the bulk of us it got monotonous. It was nothing but dig new saps, new tunnels, new trenches, day after day and night after night.
The 6th Light Horse Regiment changed its badge and its motto. When we left Sydney we had beautiful badges with a fighting cock and the motto "Fight on, fight ever." We've got a new badge now--pick and shovel, argent, crossed on an azure shield, and our new motto is "Dig on, dig ever."
The 7th Light Horse Regiment also changed its motto, which used to be "Patria te Salutamus." Now the troopers sport a shield with a picture of a rabbit, and Colonel Arnott's new motto is "Infra dig. Tunnelabit."
The A.L.H. did their share of the trench fighting quite as well as their infantry comrades. Day after day they took their posts as observers or snipers. Night after night they manned the loopholes or did patrol work or sapping. When off duty they bolted to Anzac Cove, and all the shrapnel shells in the world didn't keep them out of the water.
The truth is, a lot of our soldiers grew to be rank fatalists. "If I'm to be killed, I'll be killed," they said. On the night of the big attack the men in the supports were begging the men in the first line to give them a chance: "Come on down, and let's at 'em; I'm a better shot than you." With men clamouring for positions in the firing-line, no wonder the Turks had 10,000 casualties. When it came to the armistice to bury their dead, a soldier exclaimed, "I don't mind killing, but I bar burying the cows!"
The Turks made the same mistake about the Australians that the Yorkshiremen made about the Australian cricketers. They thought we were all black. (The Germans knew better, but encouraged the false idea.) In a Gallipoli paper we were referred to as Australian blacks, with the comment that this was "the first time cannibals had landed on Gallipoli." But after the wild bayonet charges our men made at Anzac they called the Australians "the White Gurkhas." Later on when our first few prisoners were taken to Gallipoli, the Turks admired their physique, and exclaimed: "These are indeed soldiers."
"Our army swore terribly in Flanders," it is written. I'm afraid that our historian will say the same of the army in Gallipoli. But this is about their only vice, and they have all the soldierly virtues that a general could desire. When the Turks made their big attack, and advanced yelling "Allah, Allah!" "Mohammed!" "Allah!" one of our devil-may-care infantrymen yelled as he fired: "Yes; you can bring them along too!"
Then there was the Turk who bowed. It was when the burial parties met between the trenches to bury the dead. The Turkish officers were polite and the Germans surly. A Turk picked up a bomb and started to run back to his trenches. A Turkish officer ran after him, kicked him, and returned the bomb with a bow to one of our officers, thus observing chivalrously the letter and spirit of the armistice. A Turkish soldier came up to one of our men and volunteered the information: "English good--German no good." It wasn't much, but it told a lot.
A number of prisoners were taken, and several more surrendered. But the Turks were between the devil and the deep sea. If they came with their rifles towards our trenches we shot them. If they came without them, their own soldiers shot them. So they had to sneak in as best they could, and risk being shot front and rear.
One of the finest things done in those first fatal days at Anzac must be put to the credit of Murphy's mules. Murphy's ambulance was looked for as anxiously as Gunga Din. It was "Murphy! Murphy! Murphy! an' we'll thank you for your mules!" As a matter of fact "Murphy" was a Scotsman, though he hailed from South Shields, County Durham. His real name was, I believe, John Simpson Kirkpatrick; some say it was Latimer, and others that it was Simpson; and he was a stretcher-bearer. He used to hurry up with water to the firing-line, and carry back the wounded. It was a terribly heavy pull up and down Shrapnel Gully, from the cove to the top of Braund's Hill, so Murphy "pinched" a couple of mules, and did yeoman service. He used to leave the mules just under the brow of the hill and dash forward himself to the firing-line to save the wounded. "Murphy's" voice near them sounded like a voice from heaven. Time after time he climbed the hill and did his noble work. Day after day he smiled and carried on. The mules were missed, and they found out who stole them. But they also found out what splendid work "Murphy" was doing; so the officers connived at the theft. They became accessories after the fact.
[Illustration: Murphy's Mules at Anzac.
"Murphy" on the left, his mate on the right, and little "Shrapnel" in the background.]
There came a day when "Murphy's mules" came not. Stretcher-bearers were working overtime, and the wounded cried "For God's sake, send 'Murphy's mules'!" Later on they found the mules grazing contentedly in Shrapnel Valley. Then they found poor "Murphy".... He had done his last journey to the top of the hill.
"Where's Murphy?" demanded one of the 1st Battalion.
"Murphy's at heaven's gate," answered the sergeant, "helping the soldiers through."
TO DRIVE BACK THE TURK
THE TWELFTH OF JULY--AN AFFAIR OF CONSEQUENCE--A TURKISH DRIVE--ACCURATE ENEMY FIRE--"COME AND SURRENDER"--RAPID ENEMY MOVEMENT--OUR PURPOSE ACHIEVED--A WONDERFUL PROCLAMATION, MADE IN GERMANY
We had scores of little affairs of outposts, and our patrols enjoyed some fine skirmishes and night encounters. None of them, however, quite deserved mention in the official chronicle. But the affair of _July 12_--of "glorious and immortal memory"--was more important.
It began and coincided with an advance down south at Helles. The plan of operations there was to seize the right and right-centre sections of the foremost system of Turkish trenches, from the spot where the Kereves Dere meets the sea to the main Seddel-Bahr--Krithia Road, a front of about 2,500 yards. The object was to complete the driving back of the Turks to their second system.
It was a double-barrelled attack, and was opened after the shore batteries and the ships' guns had completed the preliminary bombardment. The first phase was an assault by the French and our 155th Brigade, who captured the enemy's trenches after a splendid charge. But they had to fight like grim death to withstand the fierce counter-attacks which were made from the maze of Turkish trenches in the vicinity. This done, the second phase was entered upon by the 157th Brigade. They, too, after fierce fighting, gained their objective, with the help of the Royal Naval Division. Meanwhile the French pushed their extreme right on to the mouth of the Kereves Dere, where it runs into the sea. The whole position was maintained, despite the persistent counter-attacks of the Turk.
So much for the southern--and main--operation. Our rôle up north at Anzac was so to harass the enemy that he would expect a big attack, and so be unable to reinforce his comrades down south. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps early in the morning engaged the enemy, and after our artillery had opened the ball, the 2nd Light Horse Brigade advanced from the new position it had taken up at Ryrie's Post towards the Turkish trenches. The 6th Light Horse (Colonel Cox) and the 7th Light Horse (Colonel Arnott) sent a squadron over their trenches. The troopers jumped on to the parapet with a cheer, and swarmed down the hill to the comparative safety of the valley below. By a stroke of luck not one man was hit in this charge, though they encountered a hail of bullets. The Turks were too surprised to shoot straight. Later on the enemy's shrapnel did much execution, but the only casualty in this initial manoeuvre was when a trooper of the Sixth tripped over some of our own barbed wire and rolled, kicking and swearing, down the hill, to the huge delight of his comrades.
Pushing out over Holly Spur, towards Pine Ridge, the Light Horse advance, under Lieutenant Ferguson, drove the enemy's patrols back and opened a hot fire on their trenches. Meanwhile, to stimulate a general attack, the parties were sent forward in full view of the enemy, and withdrawn under cover to their original position. Long lines of bayonets were seen passing along our trenches and disappearing at the communication tunnels, thus lending additional colour to the idea of a general attack. Further demonstrations by the 5th Light Horse (Lieutenant-Colonel Harris) on the right wing provoked a wild fusillade from the enemy, who promptly reinforced his position all along the line, and the fusillade became general.
Most noticeable was the rapidity with which the Turkish--or German--artillery came into action. Within three minutes of the commencement of operations the Turkish shells were falling thick and fast on Holly Ridge. They had the range to a nicety, and it was a miracle how any of our advance parties escaped annihilation. As it was, we had five killed and fourteen wounded. It is estimated that the Turks fired two hundred rounds of shrapnel on the Light Horse position in one hundred minutes. Our artillery was by no means idle. Colonel Rosenthal concentrated a devastating fire on to the enemy's trenches and gun emplacements. Our howitzers landed high explosives amongst the enemy's reserves, while the enemy's guns battered our trenches. The roar of the cannonade was terrific.
We did not know exactly how fared the infantry on our left, or the New Zealanders further north. But we did know, by the rapid reinforcement of the enemy's position, that our demonstration had achieved its purpose.
One would like to mention all the acts of gallantry which were done on this occasion. But no one saw them all. I was so busy dodging shrapnel shells that I saw only a few. Anyhow, our chaps did not come with a view to getting medals. Other gallant soldiers of the Seventh and Sixth and Fifth will never get mentioned in dispatches.
After eight weeks on the inhospitable shores of Gallipoli, the Turks at last took pity on the Australians. They promised us excellent treatment and ample provisions. All we had to do was to "Come and surrender."
This cheery invitation was scattered broadcast over the Gallipoli Peninsula by a German aeroplane. But the pilot was such a poor shot that not one of the messages fell in the league-long trenches of the Australians and New Zealanders. The wind wafted them all across into the Turkish lines. But our friends next door (they are only ten feet away in one place) wrote nasty messages on the papers and threw them back into our lines.
It was a most interesting document, the one we received. It informed us that the British Navy had abandoned us to our fate. Unfortunately for the Turks, half a dozen warships and a flotilla of submarines were at that moment thundering away at the Turkish batteries. Another bit of news to the Australians was that "Greedy England made us fight under a contract." Anyway, as we had not completed the contract we did not like the idea of quitting the job.
However, here is the grandiloquent German-made proclamation:--
"_Proclamation to the Anglo-French Expeditionary Forces._
"Protected by a heavy fire of a powerful fleet, you have been able to land on the Gallipoli Peninsula on and since April 25.
"Backed up by those same men-of-war, you could establish yourself at two points of the peninsula. All your endeavours to advance into the inner parts of the peninsula have come to failure under your heavy losses, although your ships have done their utmost to assist you by a tremendous cannonade, implying enormous waste of ammunition. Two fine British battleships, _Triumph_ and _Majestic_, have been sunk before your own eyes by submarine boats, all protective means against them being found utterly insufficient. Since those severe losses to the British Navy, men-of-war had to take refuge, and have abandoned you to your own fate.
"Your ships cannot possibly be of any help to you in future, since a great number of submarines are prepared to suppress them. Your forces have to rely on sea transport for reinforcements and supply of food, water, and every kind of war material. Already the submarines have sunk several steamers carrying supplies for your destination. Soon all supplies will be entirely cut off from your landed forces.
"You are exposed to certain perdition by starvation and thirst. You could only escape useless sacrifice of life by surrendering. We are assured you have not taken up arms against us by hatred. Greedy England has made you fight under a contract. You may confide in us for excellent treatment. Our country disposes of ample provisions. There is enough to feed you well and make you feel quite at your comfort. Don't further hesitate. Come and surrender.
"On all other fronts of this war, your own people and your allies, the situation is as hopeless as on this peninsula. All news spread amongst you concerning the German and Austrian armies are mere lies. There stands neither one Englishman, nor one Frenchman, nor one Italian on German soil. On the contrary the German troops are keeping a strong hold on the whole of Belgium and on conspicuous parts of France since many a month. A considerable part of Russian Poland is also in the hands of the Germans, who advance there every day. Early in May, strong German and Austrian forces have broken through the Russian centre in Galicia. Przemysl has fallen back into their hands lately. They are not in the least way handicapped by Italy's joining your coalition, but are successfully engaged in driving the Russians out of Galicia. These Russian troops, whose co-operation one moment you look forward to, are surrendering by hundreds and thousands. Do as they do. Your honour is safe. Further fighting is mere stupid bloodshed."
Lovers of peace will regret to learn that the hard-headed and ferocious Australians rejected this kind invitation, and persisted in "stupid bloodshed." Incidentally, it might be mentioned, most of the blood shed was Turkish.
One other literary effort from our friend the enemy reached us about the same time. It was issued by the Director of the Military Museum at Constantinople, and was to the following effect:--
"The public are hereby informed that the 700 British mitrailleuses and 300 French cannon captured during the battle of Ari-Bournu at Gallipoli by our heroic troops, in the course of bayonet charges in which they drove into the sea and drowned more than twenty thousand of the enemy, will be on exhibit in the foreign gallery of the Museum immediately after the cessation of hostilities."
This startling item of information was so unexpected that it made us all long to get to Constantinople to see the trophies of Turkish prowess. It was solely with this object in view that we began making fresh preparations for a special trip to that city beautiful.
AT ANZAC LANDING--SHRAPNEL VALLEY--THOSE WEIRD NAMES--MULES AND DONKEYS--SPLENDOURS OF AN ANZAC NIGHT--OUR GREAT GUNS AND OUR GUNNERS--VISIONS OF HUNTER RIVER AND WILLIAMS RIVER SCENES.
Vignettes of battle!
These are the kaleidoscopic pictures that remain mirrored in the memory. I have forgotten what the transports looked like when we reached Gallipoli. I only half remember the panorama of battle when we first tackled the Turk. Yet there is no forgetting these little snapshots of soldiering, the vivid vignettes which stand out in clear-cut silhouette against the background of our experiences. Somehow they seem more like tableaux vivants than a moving picture show. Certainly the impression is not blurred by action, so the mind, like a camera plate, retains the scene down to the minutest details. Perhaps, when we think of the big things that our lads have done, these little visions may seem hardly worth chronicling. But the Censor will not let me take photographs, and after all it might interest the old folks at home to scan these hurried lines and construct their own mental pictures of the rugged and inhospitable Gallipoli Peninsula where so many young Australians have fought and died for empire.
First, the Cove! It was in Anzac Cove we first landed. In spite of the shrapnel shells which burst on the beach or plunged into the sea, we could take stock of the whole scene before us--afloat and ashore. Straight ahead the hills rose almost from the water's edge to a height of 400 feet. To right and left were the army stores: little mountains of bully beef and biscuits. Scores of soldiers moved hither and thither on fatigue duty, giving Anzac the appearance of a thriving port. At least five hundred men were swimming in the Cove entirely indifferent to the enemy's shells. Under the sheltering shadow of the hill was the field ambulance--doctors working overtime, orderlies running here and there, stretcher-bearers coming and going with their burdens of wounded and dead; seaward, transports lolled lazily on the placid bosom of the Mediterranean; torpedo boats streaked about looking for submarines; warships wreathed in battle-smoke belched broadsides; aloft, a circling aeroplane.
... There are weird names on Anzac. Hell Spit, Shell Green, Casualty Corner, Valley of Despair, The Bloody Angle, Dead Man's Hill, Sniper's Nest, and Cooee Gully. Every name conjures up memories. At the Bloody Angle Turks and Australians were at death-grips, day after day, and week after week, with the trenches only a few yards apart. It was back through the death-strewn Valley of Despair that the Australian infantry withdrew after their first glorious charge inland. On Dead Man's Hill the Turks lay slaughtered in hundreds after their fierce attack on May 19.
And we all know Shrapnel Valley. Here the Light Horse lay all through the night of the 20th, learning what shell-fire really meant. Since the first landing on April 25 the Turks must have landed tons and tons of lead and iron in Shrapnel Valley, but we soon knew the safety spots and the danger zones. The tortuous, waterless creek bed wound its aimless way to the sea; steep hills, scrub-faced, rose on either side; wild flowers, pink and white and lilac and yellow and blue, graced the uplands where we first landed; but they were all gone now. On the crest of the hill, sharply silhouetted against the skyline, were our trenches, so manned that the devils of hell could not break through, let alone the turbaned and malignant Turk. On the ledges behind--rather ragged and unkempt now--lounged the reserves, ready in case of attack, but knowing well that their comrades in front could easily hold the line. MacLaurin's Hill is at the top. A little further down projects Braund's Hill. Little graves dot the hillside; little wooden crosses mark the graves.
... And then the Mules! Just mules and donkeys; but they play no unimportant part in the war game at Anzac. They too, with their Indian attendants, landed at Anzac with only the Turkish guns to voice a welcome. They too sheltered in dug-outs when the artillery duel waxed warm. But day after day, and night after night, they toiled for the transport. Water and ammunition and stores of all kinds had to be carried from the depots to the firing-line, and the bulk of the burden fell on the mules. Along the meandering paths they filed, scrambling up the stiff pinches, resting awhile on the crests. Now and then a shell would slaughter a few. Anon, snipers' bullets would take toll. But the imperturbable Indian would just carry on. We had two little donkeys in Shell Green. They divided their time between the 2nd Light Horse Brigade and the 3rd Infantry Brigade, and the boys gave them biscuits. Morning and evening the Turks shelled our lines, and Shell Green was plastered with pellets and splinters. Yet by some miraculous chance the donkeys escaped harm. Men were struck down on either side, but for a couple of months the lucky animals escaped scatheless. The soldiers swore by the donkeys' luck, and when the shells burst stood by the animals rather than fly for shelter. At last the luck turned. A high explosive burst over thirty men, scattered everywhere, wounded both donkeys, and never touched a single man. We buried one of the donkeys next day. The other, wounded and lonely, wandered about disconsolate.
... Night at Anzac! The sun, a sphere of flaming red, sank into the sea. The western horizon glowed rich and splendid, while the waters of the Archipelago shimmered like molten gold. Imbros and Samothrace stood out in bold relief on the crimson skyline, while the coast of distant Bulgaria softened till lost in a purple haze. Down south spurts of fire and booming thunder told of the British warships still hammering away at the forts of the Dardanelles. Slowly, there was unfolded for the millionth time the miracle of nature's transformation scene. Like a white-hot furnace cooling, the blazing west turned to rose-red and amethyst, lilac and purple. Faithful as an echo, the mirroring sea reflected the softened shades of the sky, and the chastened waters grew mystic and wonderful in the afterglow. As the deepening twilight mantled the Ægean Sea, twinkling lights appeared on land and water, while one by one the little stars joined the crescent moon for company. All blurred and indistinct were the hills and hollows, and during a brief respite from the never-ending fusillade we forgot the war. But just behind was the long line of Australian bayonets pointing towards Constantinople.
... The Guns! Thick-lipped and cold, cruel and menacing, were the Guns of Anzac. Death-dealing monsters were they, heartless and vindictive, but, oh, how we soldiers loved them! For they were our very best friends; field guns, mountain guns and howitzers. We knew when the German and Turkish artillerymen started their snarling hymn of hate that our gunners would soon be barking defiance. Enemy shells might roar and thunder, and shrapnel claim its victims; high explosives might wreck parapets and trenches, but we knew our guns and our gunners, and that was enough. We lay low while the artillery duel raged overhead and the echoing hills reverberated with the thunderous roar of battle. So cunningly concealed were our guns, with such acumen were our emplacements selected and built that Tommy Turk had continually to be guessing. His shells searched the hills and the valleys in vain. His gunners too were skilful and brave. They took position in gullies, behind hills and in villages, and blazed away at our lines. But our aeroplanes circled overhead to spot them. Then our guns got busy and fired like fury till the Hun cried "Hold!"
Then when our spell in the trenches was over, and we sought the seclusion of our dug-outs, there came visions that are not vignettes of war. I saw the old homestead in the Hunter Valley. Hard by Erringhi it stands, where the Williams River meanders through the encircling hills and flows on towards Coalopolis. There are roses 'neath the old-fashioned windows, and in the fields the scent of lucerne ripe for the scythe. Magpies yodel in the big trees, and the wattle-gold is showing down the river. I wonder will I ever see dear old Erringhi again?
A RECAPITULATION--INTO THE FIRING-LINE--IN SIGHT OF HISTORIC TROY--A WELL-FED ARMY--A REAL GOOD COOK
George was the cook.
He blew into the Light Horse Camp at Holdsworthy when we were training. The staff captain gave him the job because he was a sea cook. Any man who can cook at sea ought to be able to cook on dry land. And all through the weary weeks of waiting and working, George kept on cooking.
George was small, not to say puny. His height was five feet, and his chest measurement nothing to cable home about. Had he gone to Victoria Barracks in the ordinary way to enlist he wouldn't have passed even the sentry at the gate, let alone the doctor. But George knew the ropes. He had "soldiered" before. That's why he took the short cut direct to camp.
We never saw much of him on the _Suevic_; when off duty he used to climb to some cosy corner on the uppermost deck and read dry textbooks on strategy and tactics. At odd times he would seek relaxation in _Life of Napoleon_, _Marlborough_, or _Oliver Cromwell_, but this was distinctly "not a study, but a recreation." Passing through the Suez Canal we saw the Turks miles away on the rim of the desert. George got out his rifle, set the sight at 2,500 yards, and waited. But the invader kept well out of range, and George went back to his cooking.
It was mid-winter in Egypt and the nights were bitterly cold. Greatcoats were vitally necessary. How welcome were the mufflers and Balaclava caps and warm socks knitted by the girls we left behind us! Welcome also was the hot coffee George provided to fill in the shivering gap between réveillé and stables. And after the horses had all been fed and watered, we returned with zest to breakfast--porridge and meat and "eggs a-cook" and bread and marmalade. I've heard some grumblers complain of the "tucker" in Egypt, but I've seen a bit of war by this and I'm convinced that the Australians are the best-fed army in the world. And George by the same token was not a bad cook.
Summer swooped down on Egypt. In its wake came heat and dust and flies and locusts. Over the scorching sands of the desert we cantered till the sweat poured from us and our horses, and the choking dust enveloped all. "Gyppie" fruit-sellers scurried hither and yon yelling "Oringes--gooud beeg one." And as we regaled ourselves with the luscious thirst-quenchers we thought of camp and the dinner that George was preparing. We trekked along the Nile, and almost before we halted George was boiling the billy. We bivouacked at Aaron's Gorge, or the Petrified Forest, or in a desert waste, and always George was on the spot with his dixies and pans. The cook's cart was a pleasing silhouette against the pyramid-pierced skyline, when we turned our eyes westward in the long summer evenings.
When at last we started for the Dardanelles, we of the Light Horse Brigade had (as you know) to leave our horses behind, and the cook's cart stopped too. But George came along all right. Despite the activities of the submarines we reached Gallipoli in safety, and witnessed the allied warships pounding away at the Turkish defences. Historic Troy was on our right; before us the entrance to the Dardanelles; and on the left, firmly established on Helles, was the great Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, making its first halt on the road to Constantinople. But we had to go further north, a mile beyond Gaba Tepe, where the Australians--particularly the 3rd Infantry Brigade--had performed such deeds of valour that Dargai, Colenso, and Magersfontein were declared by old soldiers to have been a mere picnic in contrast.
We landed amid a hail of shrapnel. Transhipping from the transports, we crowded into launches and sweepers and barges. These little boats, heavily laden with khaki freight, made straight for Anzac Cove. Fair targets for Tommy Turk, of course; so the guns of the Olive Grove Battery sent us anything but peaceful messages. Plug-plong went the shells into the water. Zip-zip hissed the bullets all round us. But, marvellous to relate, not a man was hit. Next day some infantry reinforcements, landing in the same place and manner, sustained forty casualties. That's the luck of the game--the fortune of war. We landed everything satisfactorily.
George brought up the rear, with his pots and dixies. It is because of George that I recapitulate.
In a long, straggling khaki line ("Column o' lumps," said the brigade major) we meandered past Casualty Point and Hell Spit, and up to our bivouac in Shrapnel Valley. Snipers on the hill up beyond Quinn's Post sent long-range shots at random down the track. Shells burst over our heads, and the leaden pellets spattered over the landscape. It would take too long to recount half the miraculous escapes some of our chaps had. Our artillery worked overtime, and the row was deafening. But our gunners could not silence the elusive cannon in the Olive Grove. After a time, wherein the minutes seemed like hours, we reached the camp site, and started to dig in feverishly. We burrowed like rabbits. Picks, shovels and bayonets made the earth fly till we had scratched a precarious shelter from the blast. Like troglodytes we snuggled into the dug-outs, waiting for the bombardment to cease.
But George went on with his cooking.
[Illustration: Major-General W. T. Bridges.]
Next day we changed our quarters. The German artillerymen were too attentive. We had sustained a few casualties, so we sought a more retired spot under the lee of the hill. For the first time since we had landed we were able to look about us. There was a lull in the cannonade, though the musketry fusillade proceeded merrily. We saw the long line of Australian and New Zealand trenches whence the Turks had been driven in rout the night before, leaving 3,000 dead to mar the landscape. We heard too, definitely, for the first time of the good Australians who on this inhospitable shore had given their lives for King and Empire--General Bridges, Colonel MacLaurin, Lieutenant-Colonel Braund, Lieutenant-Colonel Onslow Thompson, Sergeant Larkin (who used to sit on the opposite side to Colonel Braund in the New South Wales Parliament, but found in war the leveller that makes us all one party), and hundreds of others. Looking up to the precipitous cliffs above, we marvelled anew at the reckless daring of our infantry comrades who had scaled those heights in the face of rifle, machine-gun and shrapnel.
But we had not long to saunter and wonder. Our brigade was sent straightway into the firing-line. We were initiated into the mysteries of trench warfare, sapping and mining, bombs and grenades, observing and sniping, posies and dug-outs, patrolling and listening, periscopes and peepholes, demonstrations and reconnaissance, supports and reserves, bully-beef and biscuits, mud and blood and slaughter, and all the humours and rumours, the hardships and horrors of war.
And all the time we were doing our little bit George went on with his cooking. He may have been thinking of Napoleon, or Marlborough, or Cromwell, but he did not seem to be thinking much about this war of ours--except that he had to do some cooking for it. The Turks were shooting many of our officers down, and many of our dear old pals, but George remained--and we hoped that they would spare him. Good cooks--real, good cooks like George--are scarce.
A GREAT TRANSPORT OFFICER--HOW HE HANDLED HORSES--AND HOW HE DIED--LIEUTENANT HENRY ROBSON--A NORTH COAST HERO
George and Bill, Tom and Dick and Harry--all a happy family, having a wonderful time. You never knew what was going to happen next. At any moment your turn might come. You could not tell. But you saw old pals in the morning, and you didn't see them in the evening. Sometimes the mate who had shared your tent and fought alongside you in the trench--the mate who was with you at Holdsworthy, who was with you in Egypt, and laughed and joked with you at Anzac--was suddenly snatched away from you, and then you realized what a thin line it is that separates life from death. Have you ever dreamed that you were standing on the edge of a precipice and that an enemy was racing along behind you to push you over? That was how we felt during these days on Gallipoli. A moment, and then you too might be falling headlong down the precipice. But we found it best not to let our minds dwell upon it.
So we went on burrowing into the side of the hill. We banked up the sides of our dug-outs with sandbags and tins and earth. Most of the fighting was being done in the trenches. In some places they were now 1,500 yards apart, in some only twenty-one feet apart; and in the latter case life was all excitement. It was sap and mine and bomb and fusillade all the time. My brigade had now been here for some time, and despite the "accidents" which were always occurring we all had, somehow or other, a feeling of absolute security. We laughed at the Turks, and we smiled at what Liman von Sanders said--that he would drive us into the sea. We were just waiting, content and confident, for the big move that was going to lead to Constantinople!
And as I have said, we were a fairly well-fed army. We had none of the luxuries that the British Expeditionary Force had in France and Flanders. But on the whole we did not do too badly. The brigadier ate the same "tucker" as his batman.
We were given meat and vegetables and biscuits and cheese and jam. If only we could have had a lump of bread for a change! For the biscuits were so hard that they could be used to defend the trenches, if necessary--either as missiles or as overhead cover. Colonel ---- broke one of his teeth on one. So we tried to soak them in our tea. Then we made them into porridge.
There was fighting on land and sea, in the air and under the water. Aeroplane reconnaissance was a daily spectacle. Our airmen would go aloft and have a good look at the enemy's position. The enemy's guns would boom out all the time, and shrapnel shells would burst all round the 'plane without ever seeming to hit it. We thought it was great sport watching the white puffs of smoke where the shells burst. Then the aeroplanes would drop bombs on the Turks for spite--"throw-downs" we called them. Sometimes the position was reversed, and the Germans dropped bombs on us. Two can play at the same game in war. Take the hand grenades. You should have seen Corporal Renwick take them! Before he became a soldier Renwick was well known on the cricket field--as indeed were hundreds of others--and on Gallipoli he used to catch the bombs and throw them back before they exploded. Nor was he the only one who did this. It was like tossing live coals back and forth--playing with fire. Some of our boys used to say it was the best "slip practice" they ever had! Sometimes a bomb would explode prematurely and a man's fingers would be blown off, and worse than that. But the others went on with the game.
And we went swimming down at the beach, just as if it had been Manly or Coogee. Only it was more exciting: Shells took the place of sharks. Instead of the sudden cry one would sometimes hear at Manly or Coogee of "'Ware shark," it was "'Ware shell!" The Turks are not the surfers that the Australians are. They had little sympathy with such healthy exercise, and they showed their disapproval of it by opening fire on the beach; and then there was a warning whistle, and we all rushed in to shelter. Afterwards we had the pleasure of initiating some Turkish prisoners into the joys of surf-bathing, but the majority of them did not take kindly to it.
And all the time the fighting went on. One night we had a great set-to. The Turks mined one of our trenches and rushed in and captured it. This was the affair at "Quinn's Post." We counter-attacked and re-took the trench, killed and captured some of the Turks, and then took one of their trenches. Then the hand grenades began to come, and the cricket commenced. It was an exciting match. The Turks made a determined attempt to recapture the position. They charged in strong force, but our chaps all along the line "hit them to leg." We enfiladed them with rifle and machine-gun fire, and they were eventually repulsed with a loss of about 2,000.
Wiggins, of the Field Ambulance, was sitting in his dug-out, and two of his mates went out and called to him. He leaned out and said: "Not yet; the shrapnel hasn't stopped." Then a shrapnel shell passed between the other two and struck him on the head and killed him.
Life and death! A very thin line.... One never knows. "In the morning the grass groweth up, in the evening it is cut down and withered."
One day the word went round that "Robbo" had been killed. We would not believe it at first. It seemed a silly lie, one of those baseless camp rumours that some fool starts for a joke. Some of the officers went round to see for themselves. Colonel Cox stood by the dug-out, looking old and stricken. "Robbo's killed," he said. Then we knew it was true. Alas, alas, here was a loss! For "Robbo" was great.
The Turks had been subjecting us to a heavy bombardment for some days, and our artillery had been responding vigorously. Mostly their shells buried themselves in the sides of the hills, or exploded somewhat harmlessly in the air. Then one unlucky shrapnel shell burst right over the headquarters of the 6th Light Horse Regiment--and "Robbo" was there.
Lieutenant Henry Robson lay on the floor of the dug-out, a shrapnel bullet in his breast. And we who had lived with him in camp and on the march for eight strenuous months, sorrowed as keenly as will his North Coast friends. To Colonel Cox it was not only the loss of an officer; it was also the loss of an old friend who years before had shared the dangers of battles and the stress of war.
All of us liked Lieutenant Robson. His bark was far worse than his bite. He'd give a shirking soldier the full force of his tongue, but his heart--"right there" as "Tipperary" has it--was in the right place. Kind of heart, genial of temper, and always willing to help others along, we mourn a man that can ill be spared. He was reckoned the best transport officer in Egypt. He knew horses as few men did. Australians are reputed to be good horsemen, but poor horse-masters. But Lieutenant Robson was good all round with horses. He would get more work out of a team than any one I know. He could get a full measure of work from his men also. But he never overdrove man or beast. That's why we liked him.
Harry Robson was forty-eight years of age when he died a soldier's death on Gallipoli Heights. He was one of the original Northern River Lancers, and went to England with the New South Wales Lancers in 1893. Later on he went home with the Lancers under Colonel Cox in 1899. Standing six feet two in his socks, he was as straight as the lance he carried. He was an expert swordsman, and won several prizes at the tournaments in Scotland and at Islington. At tent-pegging he was an acknowledged champion. On the transport and in Egypt we had many bouts with the sword and singlesticks, but none of the younger officers could worst Robson, although he was old enough to be their father.
When the South African war broke out, he was sergeant-major in the New South Wales Lancers under Colonel Cox, they being the first Colonial troops to land at the Cape. He went right through the war, and participated in the battles of Modder River, Magersfontein, Grasspan, Paardeberg, Driefontein, and the Relief of Kimberley. He was with French's column during the main advance. When the 3rd Imperial Mounted Rifles were formed, Lieutenant Robson became transport officer under Colonel Cox, and saw a lot of service in Natal, the Orange Free State, and Eastern Transvaal. He participated in Kitchener's big drives, wherein his resourcefulness was of great help to the column. On one occasion Remington's column was held up by an impassable, boggy morass. The Inniskillens and Canadians were bogged. The Australians halted. Lieutenant Robson improvised a crossing with bales of hay and reeds, and got his transport over while the others were wondering how far round they would have to go. On another occasion in the Transvaal, by a simple device, he crossed the Wilge River with all his mules and wagons at a place reckoned absolutely hopeless for wheeled transport.
After the South African war he settled down on the Northern Rivers, and prospered. But when this great cataclysm convulsed the world, he heard the call of Empire, and responded like a patriot. He wired to Colonel Cox, offering his services, and left the comforts of home for the discomforts of war. On board the transport he was most painstaking and zealous in the performance of his duties. At Ma'adi he had his transport running as smoothly as a machine. When we found we were going without our horses, we thought that Lieutenant Robson would be left behind. But at the last moment the regimental quartermaster fell ill, and Robson filled the breach. And so for nine weary weeks of fighting he looked after the needs of the regiment, and not one trooper ever went to bed hungry. (I say "bed," but none of us has seen a bed for many months.)
As quartermaster, there was no need for him to be poking about the trenches and up in the firing-line as he did. But it was not in the firing-line he was killed. That is the fortune of war. He was standing just near headquarters watching the warships gliding over the Ægean Sea. Then came the fatal shell, and "Robbo" passed out to the Beyond.
"COME AND DIE"
TRENCH LIFE--THE SNIPER IS BORN--HOLIDAY ON A HOSPITAL SHIP--"WAR IS HELL"--SHIFTING SCENES--NOTHING IMPOSSIBLE--HEAVY FIGHTING--DEATH AND BURIAL OF A GALLANT OFFICER
We were told at the outset that the trenches were the safest place to be in, and this is quite true. Shrapnel now and then knocks down the parapets and does a little damage, but in Shrapnel Valley and Suicide Walk it bursts at all times. And even in the dug-outs one is not wholly safe. Many a brave spark has gone out in the dug-outs. The Turks have their snipers, and we have ours, as the sea hath its pearls. A good sniper is indeed a pearl--unless he is fighting on the "other side," and in that case he is "a cow." Most of us try our hand at sniping, with more or less success--climbing up and down these hills in search of what we call "big game"--but although I am a tolerable shot myself, I have come to the conclusion that your true sniper, like your true poet, is born, not made. I have heard it said that a good tennis-player makes a good sniper (providing he can shoot) because he has the knack of anticipating his opponent's movements. It is not enough to see your man and have a "pot" at him, for the chances are that just as you let go, he stoops down to pick a pretty flower, or he stumbles over a scrub-root. Now, the successful sniper is he who anticipates that stumble, or with an uncanny sort of second sight sees that pretty flower which the enemy gentleman is going wantonly to pluck, and aims low accordingly. Only by some such sort of intelligent anticipation could some of our men have put up the astonishing records that stand to their credit. But of that more anon.
Just at the moment I am out of the firing-line, and it is time enough to write of snipers and shot and shell when I get back to it--lots of time. For the present I am otherwise engaged. I have seen a girl--several of them--real girls--beautiful girls. To one who has not seen a girl for nearly six weeks girls seem wonderful. It is a red-letter day. For the first time for five weeks I feel absolutely safe from snipers and shells. I'm on the hospital ship _Gascon_, a couple of miles off Anzac. No, I'm not sick, neither am I wounded; it is just a little matter of duty that has brought me over, and I'm having a glorious holiday--two hours of real holiday. Presently I shall go back to my little grey home in the trench; and so I am enjoying every minute of my time on the ship. After weeks of bully-beef and bacon and biscuits I have had a DINNER. Can you who live at home at ease realize what that means? I had soup, fish, grilled chop, sausage, potatoes, rhubarb tart, cheese, bread and butter, coffee--fit for a king! Before dinner I hungrily watched the stewards as they walked in and out of the saloon. And after dinner I bought two cigars for two shillings and smoked the smoke of absolute peace and contentment.
I quite forgot the war. I could scarcely hear the sound of the fusillade and bombardment of Anzac, and I kept on the other side of the ship so that I should not see the place. The only thing to remind me of the war was the occasional booming of the guns of our warships. After the trenches it was just like heaven. The view was delightful. Imbros, Samothrace and Tenedos were near by. The sea was smooth; the weather perfect, the blue of the sky rivalling the blue of the Mediterranean.
And the girls! There were nurses on board. I shook hands with them all and talked to half a dozen of them. One was a very sweet little thing--an angel! I longed for a broken arm or leg, so that I might stay there.... Come, shade of brave old Sir Walter, and help me here.
O, woman! In our hours of ease, Uncertain, coy, and hard to please, And variable as the shade By the light quivering aspen made; When pain and anguish wring the brow, A ministering angel thou!
But they are all angels, ministering angels, tending the sick and wounded, whispering sweet words into the ears of brave men who lie there, suffering tortures of mind and body, but never uttering a complaint.
There were several doctors on board, and quite a lot of officers and men, some wounded, others sick and broken down with the stress of the last few weeks. Several of our brigade were among them. Heroes all.
Yes, I felt that if anything happened to me I should like to be taken aboard that hospital ship. But nothing had happened to me worth recording--only a few narrow escapes such as we all have in war time. I never felt better in my life. My appetite was of the best. My tongue had no coat of fur upon it. I had no excuse for remaining. I commandeered a few sheets of paper and some envelopes (precious things!). I went in and had a BATH--none of your ordinary swims, with one eye on the shrapnel and the other on the shore, but a real bath with soap and fresh water--and then I said good-bye to the nurses, good-bye to the doctors and the men, and went back from this heaven on the water to that hell upon the earth.
It WAS hell! All war is hell, as General Sherman said. And there never was one that better deserved the name than this one. Oh, God! I have stood on Braund's Hill admiring the sunset views, when the islands of the Ægean Sea seem to be floating on the edge of a gorgeous canvas of shimmering gold, and I have stood on other hills and watched the dawn-blush and the rising sun, and I have said to myself, What a blot upon God's beauties is war!... And then I have taken up my rifle and gone forth to kill men! Every prospect pleases and only the enemy is vile. Oh, these shifting scenes and changing moods!
On the other side were forty thousand Turks (we are told) watching for the opportunity to kill us. Our mission was to get to Constantinople; theirs to drive us into the sea. We were "dug in"; they were "dug in." If we found it a long, long way to Constantinople, they were finding it's a long way to the sea, which is much nearer as the crow flies. They shivered at the sound of our land guns; they heard the broadsides of our ships; they watched the _Queen Elizabeth_ fire her 15-inch gun; the shells landing on the sides of the hills, tossing hundreds of tons of earth and rock high into the air, so that when the smoke cleared away they would not know those hills; and they trembled, as all men who have seen have trembled at the fury of the monstrous gun!
But they fought on. Every yard of ground won cost us dear. I have seen our boys fall like ninepins before a hail of bullets. I have heard the cry "Lie low" in an advance, and every man has fallen flat upon the ground to escape certain destruction; and I have heard that other pitiful cry, time and time again, of "Stretcher-bearers wanted!" Once the men lay prone for four hours in the midst of the scrub, with the air full of bursting shells and rifle and machine-gun fire passing just over them. I do not wonder that some men lost their nerve during those terrible hours.
But never yet did Australian officer call upon his men to take a position, no matter how impossible the feat, and find them wanting. "Impossible!" There was no such word in their vocabulary. Nothing was impossible to them--until they died. Colonel McCay, Brigadier in Command of the Second Infantry Brigade, spoke the truth when he said: "The way, the cheerful, splendid way, they face death and pain is simply glorious, and if no Australian ever fought again, April 25, April 26 and May 8 specially mark them as warriors. On the eighth of May I said in effect to them (my own brigade), 'Come and die,' and they came with a cheer and a laugh. They are simply magnificent."
The men were led by brave officers--officers who would not ask their men to go where they themselves were afraid to go. It was thus, leading their men to the fight, that General Sir William Throsby Bridges, commanding the Australian Imperial Force when it made its historic landing, Colonel MacLaurin, Colonel Onslow Thompson, Lieutenant-Colonel Braund, and other gallant officers fell. And it was thus that, later, Colonel McCay received the wounds that put him out of action. Australian officers, like any other officers, are human and have erred at times, but they have never asked their men to take risks they would not share themselves. There is a letter written by Colonel McCay in which he says: "When my men have to go into a veritable hell, as they did on April 25, April 26 and May 8, I must lead them, not send them. I won their confidence because I shared the risks with them." And that is the spirit of all the Australian officers--gallant leaders of gallant men.
Such was the spirit of Lieutenant-Colonel Hubert Harris, V.D., commanding the 5th Light Horse Regiment, who was killed in action on Gallipoli on the night of July 31. Curious it was that the only man hit in the regiment that night was its commander. They were firing from the trenches and occupying the attention of the Turks while the infantry on our left blew up the enemy's trench, dashed out, bayoneted the defenders, and captured the position. There was a wild fusillade by the enemy's riflemen, and a heavy bombardment of our lines. One unlucky bullet came through a loophole, struck Colonel Harris in the neck, and he died in a few minutes.
There was heavy fighting along the whole league-long line that night. But the main work was left to MacLagan's famous 3rd Infantry Brigade. The Turks had sapped in and dug trenches opposite Tasmania Post. They looked dangerous, and it was thought they would try to undermine our trenches and blow us up. So we mined in under them, and blew up their advanced trench. On our left the New Zealanders made a lively demonstration to keep the enemy opposite engaged, and the big guns blazed away at the main Turkish position. From the sea a warship fired high explosives in the same direction. Then Captain Lean with a storming party of the 11th Infantry Battalion, dashed out with great gallantry and seized the objective. They used boards to surmount the barbed wire entanglements, swept down on the Turks, bayoneted and shot about fifty of them, and entered into possession. Engineers immediately bolted out under a heavy fire, and hurriedly built up sandbag defences. And having got it, the Eleventh held on.
Meanwhile the 2nd Light Horse Brigade on the right poured a heavy fire into the Turkish trenches on the immediate left of the captured position. All attempts at reinforcing the Turkish advanced line were thus frustrated, and no counter-attack had any chance of getting home. Thinking a further attack was intended from Ryrie's Post, the Turkish artillery concentrated their field guns on the Light Horse, and the bombardment was terrific; yet--and here is the luck of the game--not one man in the firing-line of the 6th Light Horse was wounded. I was up with B Squadron, and the hail of shrapnel was something to remember. That was about half-past ten at night; and the moon having just risen, we concentrated our rifle fire on the enemy's trenches, leaving our artillery to deal with their reserves. Then it was that the fatal bullet killed Colonel Harris.
In a special order issued by General Birdwood next day reference was made to the excellent qualities of Colonel Harris, and to the conspicuous ability he had shown during the few months he had led his regiment on Gallipoli. We of the Sixth knew his value, and liked him; the Queenslanders loved him, and would have followed him anywhere.
Colonel Harris was a comparatively young man, not yet forty-five years of age. He started his soldiering in the Brisbane Grammar School cadets, and then became a bugler in the Queensland Rifles. Later on he joined the Mounted Infantry, volunteered for the South African War, going with the second Queensland contingent as a lieutenant, and returned a captain. He maintained his interest in the military forces after his return, became adjutant, and later on succeeded to the command of the 13th Australian Light Horse Regiment. Curiously enough, Colonel Spencer Brown, whom he succeeded in that command, and Lieutenant-Colonel Stoddart, who succeeded him, have also come to the war. For five years, Lieutenant-Colonel Harris commanded the 13th Regiment, and then was placed on the unattached list. When the war broke out he offered his services, and in November, 1914, took command of the 5th Light Horse Regiment in Colonel (now Brigadier-General) Ryrie's 2nd Brigade. He wore the Victoria Decoration and the Queen's South African ribbon with five clasps.
So here in the hills of Gallipoli there passes to the Great Beyond another good Australian, a brave and gallant officer, a kindly and courteous gentleman. The Americans used to sing "John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave; his soul goes marching on." So the 5th Regiment may well feel that the spirit of Hubert Harris will go with them on to victory.
We buried him next night. The Dean of Sydney, Chaplain-Colonel Talbot, officiated, assisted by Chaplain-Captain Gordon Robertson. Officers and men of the regiment--all who could be spared from the trenches--attended with Major Wilson, who assumed command of the Fifth. Brigadier-General Ryrie and staff, and Lieutenant-Colonel Arnott, of the Seventh, were also present. As the earth was heaped upon him, the brigadier remarked sadly: "The brigade has lost a gallant officer, and Australia a patriot."
A WAR OF ANOMALIES--BACK TO PRIMITIVE WEAPONS--BOWS AND ARROWS--HAND GRENADES AND BRICKBATS--AN INDIGNANT DOCTOR--"ARE YOU THERE, ABDUL?"--MASSIVE MASSIE THE CRICKETER--A RESOURCEFUL COOK--A VERY GRIM STORY
Some talk of Alexander, And some of Hercules, Of Hector and Lysander, And such great men as these: But of all the world's great heroes There's none that can compare With the tow-row-row-row-ri-ro, The British Grenadiers!
A year or more ago, when we sang this old song, we thought that the days of the grenadiers were numbered, that future warfare would know them no more.
Yet here we were on Gallipoli, reverting to the grenades of the Peninsular War, and the old Roman catapult, and even the bows and arrows. The enemy was so close to us that we could not use some of our guns to demolish his trenches. We even had to take some of our howitzers back a mile in order to hit the enemy in front of us. What a conglomeration of anomalies this war presents! In an age when our big guns can hurl huge projectiles many miles, we are compelled to fight with bows and bayonets and bombs and brickbats.
Bricks were not often used. But when the Turkish snipers "sneaked" close up to our lines through the scrub, we threw stones at the likely places. Thinking these missiles were bombs, the Turk would often run, or else disclose his position. Then we gave him a few rounds rapid.
One day a German aeroplane flew along the coast, and in plain view of the army dropped a huge bomb at our hospital ship, only missing the target by about fifty yards. There were no other ships near, so there was no excuse. This cowardly act so incensed our medical officer that he went straight out to our firing-line and threw a brick at the Turks, forty yards off. "I wear the Red Cross," he apologized, "so I cannot fire at them, and they are not supposed to fire on me. But I must show my indignation somehow."
As to the bows and arrows: this was Major Midgley's idea. At night the Turkish patrols crawled up close to our lines, and sniped away without being seen. Our flares could not be thrown far enough to show them up. So we made bows out of pine saplings and wire and sent fiery arrows into the scrub. This made the unwelcome visitors keep a respectful distance.
But if bows and bricks were only incidentals, the bombs were the real thing. In the wild bayonet charges our footballers were simply irresistible. But with the bombs our cricketers excelled. One of them exclaimed: "We've got the cows bluffed." Another boasted: "We've got 'em beaten to a frazzle"--shade of Roosevelt! Anyhow, our chaps could beat the Turks at the bomb business. Have I not already told how some of our cricketers caught the enemy's bombs and hurled them back again?
There was a picture--in _Punch_ I think--of the incident of the Irishman who yelled out to the Germans, "How many of yez are there?" and on getting the answer "T'ousands," he heaved a bomb, saying, "Well, share that amongst ye!" The Australians have quite the same humorous appreciation of the situation. With the trenches anything between 10 and 1,000 yards apart, there was ample scope for the passing of compliments as well as bombs between the contending forces. It was quite common for a trooper to cry out: "Are you there, Abdul? Well, here's baksheesh." Or may be, "Here you are, Mohammed, here's a Christmas box"; and a hand grenade would accompany the sally. When a Turkish bomb arrived the Australian merely observed: "Maleesch," or "Ver' good, ver' nice," in imitation of the "gyppie" dragoman. If a bomb exploded right in the trench or on the parapet the real Australian "Slanguage" was sure to be heard. One Light Horseman was heard to observe as a bomb exploded over his head: "These Turks are clumsy cows; they'll be killing some of us if they ain't more careful!" Once the voice of a Hun sounded from a Turkish trench: "Come on you--kangaroo-shooters!" But prisoners told us that the German officers were rarely seen in the firing-line. They felt safer further back.
A curious incident happened in the infantry lines. A kangaroo-shooter from the Kimberley country threw a bomb at a Turkish trench only fifteen yards away, and the cries of "Allah," "Allah," told him that his aim was true. He turned to his mates and remarked casually, "That's the first man I've killed without getting into a heap of trouble." A much more unsophisticated youth--one of the recent reinforcements--had been a week in the trenches without actually seeing one of the enemy. Then a Turk jumped on the parapet, threw a bomb, and jumped down again. And the guileless one exclaimed, "That's the first Turk I've seen in his wild state!"
Lieutenant Massie, the giant Varsity cricketer, son of the General Manager of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney--known in the 1st Brigade as "Massive"--was throwing bombs one night (he can throw bombs farther than any man on Gallipoli), and after landing a few in the Turkish trenches, he accidentally struck his hand on the back of the trench. The bomb he was about to throw rolled along the bottom of the trench and then exploded. Everybody in the vicinity bolted to the nearest traverse, so no one was hurt badly. But Massie was kept busy for a week picking bomb splinters out of himself.
Massie had several miraculous escapes since landing on Gallipoli. The closest shave occurred when he was out in front of the firing-line fixing some barbed wire. He was clambering back over the parapet when one of his own men mistook him for a Turk and lunged at him with his bayonet. Massie ducked just as if he were dodging a "straight left," but the point of the bayonet caught him in the neck, inflicting, fortunately, only a slight wound. Later he was seriously wounded, and was taken off to hospital.
There was one senior officer in the Light Horse who occasionally enjoyed fresh fish for breakfast. This was very rare on Gallipoli. The cook would never tell whence the fish came, but it was noted that the regimental supply of bombs was always one or two short. Nobody ever connected the absence of bombs with the presence of fish. But one morning very early the officer noticed the cook making stealthily in the direction of the cove. He followed. Then he saw the bombs explode in the water, and he saw the cook swim out and gather in half a dozen fine big mullet. An hour later he had delicious fresh fish for breakfast, while most of the officers had bully-beef and bacon. The officer was in a quandary. He did not know whether to court-martial the cook or promote him!
One other bomb incident I hesitate to give, as I did not see it, and cannot vouch for it. But up at Quinn's Post they swore it was true. I give it in the words of the callous-hearted soldier who told me the story. "We were giving Abdul a 'bit of hurry-up up' at Quinn's," he said. "Jim always was slow, and it settled him. He had a 5-seconds bomb, made out of a 'baccy' tin, and he was told to count one, two, three, and on the 'three' chuck the blame thing into the Turkish trenches. Well, he lit it, and it never burned too good, so he starts blowing at the fuse. He looked awful comical, and we yelled at him to 'shot.' But he kept on blowing till the dash thing exploded, and blew half his head off. He was a humorous bloke."
THE ANGEL OF DEATH ABROAD--THREE MATES--LAUGHING IN THE FACE OF DEATH--HARD SWEARERS, HARD FIGHTERS--A CURATE'S "LANGUAGE"--GERMAN AEROPLANE DROPS BOMBS ON TURKS--SAFETY IN AIR FLIGHT--"SAVE US FROM OUR FRIENDS"
"My turn at cooking comes round every third day," wrote a gunner of the 6th Battery, Victorian Division of Artillery, Anzac, at a time when victuals were not too plentiful. "I give them bully-beef and biscuits one day, and biscuits and bully-beef the next for a change. How I think with envy of the wonderful messes of pottage the mater used to make for the hens at Sandringham!... It is a most peculiar sensation at first to have 'Weary Willies' bursting over you and to see the pellets dropping on the dusty road like rain after a dry spell."
[Illustration: Anzacs in Reserve.
An Australian Brigade in dug-outs in Rest Gully.]
And another wrote: "The trenches are certainly the safest place to be in. One 8-inch shell took the roof (blankets) off our officers' heads, just missing Major Hunt, O.C., Lieutenant Smith and Lieutenant Perry, of our Company, by inches--not the whole shell, but a piece of it. The shell killed a couple of our men when it burst.... We were continuously at it for five solid weeks, and then we were taken to Rest Gully for a rest, which consisted of fatigues, sapping, trenching under fire and working parties on the famous beach, where 'Beachy Bill' and 'Lonely Liz' used to scatter men by the score, with also an 11-inch shell dropping now and then from the Straits. Splendid rest, this!"
Change! What change could one have there? Rest! What rest? "The Angel of Death is abroad throughout the land," said John Bright in one of his most memorable orations. "You can almost hear the beating of his wings!" But on Gallipoli you could hear the beating of his wings day and night, knowing not what the next moment might bring forth.
There were three mates in Junee, a western town of New South Wales, who used to play cricket and football together. When their country asked for soldiers they answered the call. The three enlisted together, shared the same tent in camp, and fought side by side in each successive engagement, from the landing to the fight for Lonesome Pine. One of them--Reg. Humphreys--fell with a bullet in his brain, and died in the arms of his comrade, Joe Charlton. Later in the day, Charlton fell, and the third man, Paul White, carried him back to the ship, where he died of his wounds. Out of 120 men of A Company only White and one other man remained. The rest were all killed or wounded or sick.
Such is War. And yet our boys went cheerfully on with their work. Hard work--hot work, so hot that we followed the example of the Indian Army and cut our trousers short. Very comfortable were these "shorts" when climbing about the hills. We looked like Boy Scouts. You should have seen the gunners on a hot day, stripped to the waist, and stripped from the knee to the feet--wearing their "shorts" and nothing but their "shorts"! Infantry and Light Horsemen, you could scarce tell one from the other. "Shorts" put us all on the same level. And we were all as jolly as sandboys, having our fun and cracking our jokes, reading the official _Peninsula Press_ and enjoying the unofficial humour of our own trench organs, such as the _Dinkum Oil News_ and _The Dardanelles Driveller_. We knew that Death was near, but we laughed in his face.
One day a bread ration was issued, instead of the inevitable biscuit ration. "Well, they might have given us butter with it!" exclaimed one trooper, with a smile. "Butter!" cried his mate--"you'll be wanting flowers on your grave next!"
They had many names for the Australians on Gallipoli, and one of them was "The Linguists." Some of the British Tommies used to stand in awe when they heard an Australian bullock driver giving vent to his feelings. I have even heard it said that a reputable Australian curate who went to the front in the ranks used the most disreputable language in charging a Turkish trench. One morning a German aeroplane dropped two huge bombs behind our lines. They exploded with a terrific blast, but did no damage. As the glistening bombs shot earthward, one of the men exclaimed, "'Ere comes 'er 'ymn of 'ate from 'ell!"
Another day we thought we would see an aerial duel. Already we had seen about everything else that twentieth-century war could show us. But the duel never came off. One of our 'planes took wing and flew north from Helles, over Anzac, towards Enos. Shortly afterwards, a German aeroplane took the air, and hovered over our lines. Evidently our airman could not see the Taube, for he circled aimlessly about over the Ægean Sea. Meanwhile, the German got quite venturesome. He sailed low--barely 2,000 feet above us--and though we blazed away with rifles and guns, he managed to have a good look at our position. Also, he dropped a couple of bombs at the right of our line before he bolted. But they fell harmlessly into the sea.
We got several good laughs every day. It made life worth living to note the wonderful good humour of our soldiers. Sometimes we laughed at the Turks, sometimes at each other. We had one great laugh at a German airman. He went up with a big bomb, evidently intent on some frightfulness. A British aeroplane immediately sighted him, and started in pursuit. Then a couple of French airmen took the air, and joined in the chase. With three of them hot on his trail, the German fled over the Turkish lines. The Allies gained on him, so to lighten his load he dropped his bomb overboard. But it landed on the Turkish trenches. They thought he must have been an enemy, for they at once opened fire with rifles, machine-guns, and anti-aircraft artillery, and the poor Taube had a very sultry time.
The Germans erected a new aerodrome, "somewhere on Gallipoli." The French airmen sighted it, dropped a few bombs, set fire to the petrol store, and did considerable damage. We had an aerial night attack on the Turkish camps at the Soghan Dere. Our aeroplanes first fired with their machine-guns at the flashes of the enemy's rifles. Then they dropped a couple of 20-lb. bombs, which burst in the centre of the Turkish camp. Finally they dropped 300 arrows amongst the bewildered enemy.
After watching the airmen operating over the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean, and in Gallipoli, we came to the conclusion that flying is easily the safest job in war time. We used to think otherwise. To the onlooker it appeared so hazardous, that the marvel was that those dare-devils were not all blown to smithereens. But for about three months, we watched them at work, and not a hair of one of their heads was harmed. Time and again the airman sailed across the enemy's lines, while their anti-aircraft guns worked overtime. The blue of the sky was flecked with white puffs of smoke where the shells burst, yet the aeroplane flew on serenely. I counted forty-one shells one day, which burst all round one of our airmen on reconnaissance. Many seemed to go very close indeed; others flew wide of the mark. The Turkish trenches would spring to life as our 'planes passed over, and thousands of rounds would be poured into the atmosphere. Their machine-guns would sound the rataplan as the belts were emptied. But the wild fusillade never disconcerted the airmen. All of which proves what an exceedingly difficult target the aeroplane must be.
We did not have any Zeppelins buzzing round the Dardanelles. Perhaps they were too busily engaged on their baby-killing enterprises on the east coast of old England. The nearest thing we had was an observation balloon, looking for all the world like a huge German sausage suspended in mid-air. But it was very helpful to our warships for observation purposes.
BERGIN--ROBERTSON--MILLER--GOOD AND BRAVE CHRISTIAN DIVINES--TURKISH IMAMS--A CHESS-PLAYING CLERIC--POCKET TESTAMENTS AND SUNDAY SERVICES--HILL-SIDE WORSHIP--HYMNS AND THE CANNONS' ROAR
In the training camps in Australia the chaplains conducted services, helped at the concerts, and generally made themselves useful and agreeable. On the transports they did pretty much the same thing; but somehow we never seemed to know them, and they, in turn, knew very few of us by name. It was when we settled down in Egypt that we first began to know them, and to appreciate their work. And since Cairo has the reputation of being the wickedest city in the world, there was ample scope for the operations of the chaplains.
But one of the chaplains had adamantine ideas on theological subjects. He was a great scholar, and had other virtues, but his conscience would not let him participate in the combined services with the other ministers. So when we came away to thrash the Turk we left him behind in Egypt.
In his stead we took an Irishman--Father Bergin. He was a good sport, a good priest, brave as a lion, and with wounded soldiers gentle as a nurse. His only fault was that he always wanted to be right up in the firing line, for he dearly loved a "scrap"--being Irish. When the 5th Light Horse Regiment had their fight near Gaba Tepe, Father "Mike" was everywhere tending the wounded, and as a water-carrier he rivalled Gunga Din. Those of us who were not of the "faithful" learned to like him more and more, and if the campaign had lasted much longer I fear we would have all been "Romans."
Then there was Captain Robertson, young and quiet, and kind of heart. I don't think any of us ever saw him in a pulpit. Mostly he had to preach in tents or in the open air. I have heard him hold forth in an Anzac gully, with the shells bursting overhead. Again, I have sat at his feet right in the support trenches, just behind the firing-line, while his sentences were punctuated by the report of snipers' rifles. He used to dwell on "historic associations." He told us that our feet had trod the same streets and fields as Moses and Aaron and Pharaoh, Joseph and Mary, the Apostle Paul, Antony and Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Mahomet Ali, Napoleon and Byron, and a host of others. His forte, however, was not preaching, but practising. He practised most of the Christian virtues. He was the soldiers' friend, and when we'd sit and smoke and yarn round the camp fire at night, and some one swore inadvertently, he was not righteous overmuch.
Our third padre, the Senior Chaplain of the Brigade, was Captain Keith Miller. As the Americans say, he was "some preacher." At Ma'adi we used to have the big tent packed with 2,000 soldiers. Visitors from Cairo and beyond used to go from our services as much impressed with the preacher as with the physique and bearing of the Light Horsemen. Sermon-tasters from St. Andrew's, Cairo, nodded their heads in grave approval. Elders, with an air of finality, said, "Yon's a fine deliverance"; and other elders answered "Aye." The padre's final oration and peroration before we left for the front won the special commendation of General Birdwood, who was present. I forget now what the sermon was about--but I know I wanted to cheer at the end of it.
On one of the Turkish prisoners captured, we found a copy of a divisional order, in which the O.C. stated:--"I have many times been round the fire trenches, but have never met any Imam. I lately gave an order that Imams were to be constantly in the trenches, in order to keep up the morale of the men by preaching and exhorting; and whenever possible men should be assembled for prayer, and the call for prayer should be cried by a fine-voiced Imam."
Now, it is pleasing to record that no such order was necessary in the ranks of the Australian division. Our chaplains since the memorable day of the landing played their part manfully in the great game. McKenzie of the Salvation Army was real grit; one of the finest of our militant Churchmen. They were in the trenches day and night, talking with the men, writing letters home to their people, visiting the sick; and every man in our brigade was supplied with a neat little pocket Testament by a friend of the New South Wales Auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society. And on Sundays there were services in all the brigades--in the gullies, or under the crests of the hills behind the firing line. And sometimes we couldn't hear the singing because of the cannons' roar; there was not one solitary spot in Anzac absolutely safe from the enemy's fire. And yet I have never heard of any soldier being wounded at any of these services! Once Padre Miller was conducting a service in Shrapnel Valley, and had finished his firstly, secondly, and thirdly, and was just coming to the peroration, when shrapnel shells burst overhead. So the service had to be abandoned. That was a "sair" trial to the "Meenister."
Yet, in spite of his many estimable qualities, I regret to state that Padre Miller had one besetting sin. It was a secret sin. Only a few of us knew of his weakness. He played chess. Yes, played chess over and over and over again. When in Cairo others of us would play tennis, he would slink away with some old crony and play chess. I have known him play till two o'clock in the morning at a game. (There is no doubt about the hour, because he called for me on the way back to camp.) He was often late at mess, playing chess. He scarce had time to dress, playing chess. Admittedly he played well, and after defeating the Ma'adi champions he sought fresh victims in Cairo. The Scotch engineer on the transport was a fine player, but he couldn't checkmate the padre.
When we landed in Gallipoli the first thing the padre did was to dig a dug-out. The second was to seek a chess-mate. There was no chessboard, so he got the lid of a box. There were no chessmen, so he carved Queens and Bishops and Knights and Pawns out of the flotsam and jetsam on Anzac Beach. Then, safely ensconced in a snug little dug-out, the padre and his mate stalemated and checkmated to their hearts' content, oblivious of the shells which burst around. Immediately after his tour of the trenches, and his visit to the sick, the padre would make for his chess-mate.
Later on we found him making periodical visits to the hospital ship. I admit he religiously did the rounds of the wards, and looked after the wounded, and I frankly admit that I went on board to see the nurses, but I'm positive the driving force behind the padre's visits was the prospect of a game of chess with the skipper.
After a few months on Gallipoli the Padre was transferred to the hospital at Lemnos. We all sympathized with him, stuck at the base, and missing all the fun of the fighting. Then we heard that the M.O. at the hospital was a great chess-player, and we knew that the Padre never deserved our sympathy.
AN INCONVENIENT COUGH--"IMSHI"--AN EMPTY NEST AND A DASH FOR COVER--A CLOSE SHAVE--SNIPER SING--MIDGLEY'S MYRMIDONS--A GOOD "BAG"--A WAR OF TROGLODYTES--BEATING THE TURK AT HIS OWN GAME
They are not battles or fights; they are hardly skirmishes even. They are just "stunts."
I don't like the word "stunt"; it sounds like an American vaudeville turn. But somehow it attained a general vogue on Gallipoli, and it meant any of the little incidents, episodes, and brushes with the enemy which served to relieve the monotony of trench warfare.
Having been ousted from their "impregnable" positions on the coast, the Turks dug in deep to block the advance of the Australians on the west and the Allies on the south. Slowly they were being shifted; more by the pick and shovel than the rifle. The trenches were only a few yards apart in some places; several hundred yards apart in others. And it was in the neutral zone between the hostile armies that these "stunts" took place.
Mostly they were planned and executed under cover of darkness, for a head couldn't be shown above the trenches in daylight without getting a score of bullets. Our chaps were far more enterprising and venturesome than the Turks, but the latter were better patrols. The reason was that the Turks know the country, wear a kind of moccasin on their feet, and move about quite noiselessly. With our heavy service-boots silence is impossible. So we got out early--just after dark--waited in ambush, and caught Tommy Turk when he came poking his nose into our business.
One fine "stunt" was spoilt by a cough. Lieutenant Chatham, of the 5th Light Horse, had a troop out in ambush near the Balkan gun pits, where the Turks were working each night. Just when the enemy's patrol approached, one of our troopers felt a tickling in the throat. He tried to swallow the tickle and couldn't. He gulped, but the tickling continued aggravating. At last he stuffed his handkerchief in his mouth and coughed. It was only an insignificant little cough; but it sufficed. The Turkish patrol halted and the leader investigated. Stealthily he crept up till he could almost touch the crouching Australian. Bang! Finish Turk. Patrol "imshi." That was one to us. But for the unfortunate cough we might have got half a dozen.
The enemy scored next time. One of their snipers, over-bold, crept up in the scrub to within twenty yards of the trenches of the 7th Light Horse, and started blazing away. Our fellows could not get him from the trenches, so Sergeant Ducker and three others volunteered to rush the Turk's "posey" and bring him in, dead or alive. Cautiously they fixed bayonets, climbed on to the parapet, and then dashed out. They found the sniper's nest, but the bird had flown. A number of empty cartridge cases bore testimony to his activity. But the scrub was full of snipers, and as our dashing quartette dashed for home a hot fusillade was opened on them from the Turkish trenches and the scrub. Ducker dashed into shelter so fast that he landed on General Ryrie's back. No. 2 sent a miniature avalanche of dust and débris on top of Colonel Cox; No. 3 landed on my pet corn; and No. 4, Trooper Edgeworth, got a Turkish bullet in the arm. "Maleesch."
One of our best exploits was "White's one-night stunt," as it was called. The General wanted a certain position taken and occupied. Our brigade had to do it. Under cover of night a patrol went out, reconnoitred the position, and formed a covering party for the work to come. Major Fred. White then took 150 men of the 6th Light Horse, armed with picks and shovels as well as their rifles, and dug a long sap six feet deep, right out to Harris Ridge. Then the trenches were dug, and the position occupied. The Sixth dug like miners, and burrowed like rabbits. Next morning when Abdul awoke he beheld the smoke of the Light Horse camp fires and the hill in possession of the enemy. And the Turks wondered what had happened.
One morning early, Major Windeyer, of the 7th, poked his head over the parapet to enjoy the panorama, and a Turkish sniper let fly, the bullet just whizzing past his ear. Several snipers had been heard in front of our lines, but not located. So it was decided to drive them off. Fifty volunteered for the job; six were chosen, but it was found that a dozen joined in the rush. The Turkish patrol was easily driven back by Sergeant Walker and his comrades, and the Turks in the foremost trench were so surprised that about fifty rounds were poured into them before they got busy. At least one was killed before their reinforcements came tumbling up. Then the Australians bolted for home, and reached safety without any casualties, though the Turks blazed away like fury. That's the luck of the game.
Sergeant Brennan, who used to be in the Dublin Fusiliers, and whose camp kitchens at Liverpool have often been admired by Sydney visitors, was in charge of the cooks and dixies of the 7th Light Horse. Every morning, breakfast over, he took down his rifle, strolled across to the trenches, and had innumerable duels with Turkish snipers. He had the range of all their trenches, and when he saw a sniper's "posey" he blazed away till he silenced the enemy. Now and then an unwary Turk showed half a head, and this Irish sharpshooter was on to him like a shot. Some days he would come back to camp angry and disappointed. "Thirty shots and not a single scalp," he exclaimed, kicking aside some innocent mess tin. But at other times he stalked back as if he had won the battle of Anzac "on his own." "Killed three Turkeys," he cried. And then he was as happy as Larry all day.
But there was one man in the 5th Light Horse Regiment whom we called "The Murderer." He played the Turks at their own game, and beat them badly. He himself admitted it was "a shame to take the money." He used to sit with his rifle set at a certain track which the enemy thought was well concealed behind the hills. His mate had a telescope, and spotted for him. They waited till they saw a head appear, and they knew that three seconds later a Turk would be in full view for two seconds. That was quite enough. "The Murderer" was ready. The spotter said "Right"; the rifle fired, and another victim of German "kultur" fell.
The man's name was Billy Sing, a Queenslander, belonging to "Midgley's Myrmidons." The 5th Light Horse Regiment was nominally composed of Queenslanders; but the North Coast rivers of New South Wales were included in the 1st Commonwealth Military District. A great many men from the Tweed, Richmond, and Clarence Rivers enlisted in Brisbane. This was particularly true of the 5th Light Horse, for the majority of Major Midgley's squadron hailed from Northern New South Wales. They revelled in the exploits of the gallant little Major, swearing to follow him anywhere, so we called them Midgley's Myrmidons. If he were casually to remark, "Come on, boys, I think we'll take Achi Baba to-night," not one of them would have hesitated an instant. Major Midgley reckoned that since the glorious game of War degenerated into a battle of troglodytes, we might as well make it interesting and diverting. So, in this particular section of our line of battle, things were always happening. We never wanted for diversion. But this same diversion was always at the expense of our friend the enemy, and poor Abdul was correspondingly angry.
Sing held the Australian snipers' record. He was a crack shot, and had often won prizes at Brisbane and Randwick. Day after day, night after night, he used to settle down comfortably in his "posey" and wait for his prey. His patience was inexhaustible. He would sit for hours on end with a telescope glued to his eye, watching the tracks or trenches, where sooner or later a Turk was sure to show himself. If a Turk looked up, and then bobbed down quickly, Sing only grinned and waited. He would get his Turk later on. Emboldened by fancied immunity, the unsuspecting one would show his head again, then his shoulders, then half his body. Then Sing's rifle would crack, and another notch be made in the stick. There was not the slightest doubt of his performances, for every day an officer or non-commissioned officer checked the shot and recorded the kill. Before he left Anzac Billy Sing bagged over 150 Turks.
One night he went with the rest of Midgley's Myrmidons on a rather hazardous enterprise. It turned out to be one of the most successful affairs undertaken. General Ryrie wanted to know how strongly held were the Turkish trenches on an imposing ridge opposite our lines. The 5th Light Horse Regiment (Major Wilson) had to find out. Major Midgley's squadron had to make the attack. Major Johnson's squadron skirted the coast to keep Gaba Tepe quiet and guard against a flank attack. Captain Pike's squadron manned our outpost, and brought covering fire to bear on the enemy's right. One of our destroyers fired a few salvos at the Turks' position; just something to go on with. Then the Myrmidons sneaked out. It was about four o'clock in the morning. The moon had just set. Through the scrub they crept silently and stealthily. Not a sound escaped them till they were within thirty yards of the enemy's trenches. Then something warned a sentry, and he fired half a dozen shots into the scrub. But our lads lay low and made no sound, and the sentry evidently thought he was mistaken.
At a word from the Major the line started slowly forward again, and, unnoticed, reached a little knoll, not ten yards from the Turkish trenches. Then the music began, with a pyrotechnic display thrown in. Our "grenadiers" threw bombs and grenades thick and fast on the bewildered garrison, while on either wing our riflemen blazed away, driving back the supports which hurried up from the enemy's rear. On the shore line, B Squadron opened on the Gaba Tepe defences, while we in the trenches blazed away at Pine Ridge till our rifles burned our hands. The silence of the night was broken by a fierce fusillade, as pin-points of fire burst from the whole length of the Turkish trenches. But the regiments on our left lay low in their trenches, and laughed at the Turks' impotent rage. We on the post had one man very slightly wounded--just a scratch. The shore line squadron had also one man wounded--rather badly.
Midgley's gallant Myrmidons effected a splendid withdrawal, for after they had cleaned out the Turks' advance trench they came back to our lines with only one man wounded in the leg. When he came in Major Midgley reported to the General: "We've got 'em stone cold. My birds simply bombed them out, cleaned out the trench, bagged about thirty, and are now back for breakfast."
A MEMORABLE ENGAGEMENT--TARDY BRITISH ADVANCE--SIR IAN HAMILTON'S MESSAGE--FIVE DAYS' FIGHTING--OUR GALLANT INFANTRY--OFFICERS WHO FELL--HOT BAYONET WORK--THE NAVY SPEAKS--LONE PINE TAKEN
August on Gallipoli will be long remembered by the Australian troops on account of the terrific fighting in which they participated. July was fairly quiet. But August witnessed the great flanking movement of the British troops, which we were confident at the time would result in the final defeat of the Turks on the Peninsula.
The new movement took the form of an attack and demonstration in front, while under cover of darkness a new British force landed at Suvla Bay and enveloped the enemy's flank. In the better understood parlance of the ring, we feinted with our right, and landed a terrific blow with our left. So successful was this feint that all the local reserves of the Turks were hurried up to counter it, thus leaving an opening for the main attack from Suvla.
All the honour and glory of the magnificent charge of our Australians and the capture of Lone Pine Ridge belongs to our infantry comrades of the 1st Brigade. We of the Light Horse can claim none of the kudos for that gallant feat of arms, though the 2nd Light Horse Brigade and 2nd Infantry Brigade fought like tigers day after day and night after night to hold the line during the consequent counter-attacks.
There was some fierce and bloody fighting during those early days of August all along the line, but the capture of Lone Pine Ridge stands out, not only because of the complete success of the operation but on account of the irresistible dash and daring of the lads from New South Wales.
Just before the battle we got a message from Sir Ian Hamilton. It was in a Special Order issued from the general headquarters of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, and was as follows:--
_"August 5, 1915._
"Soldiers of the old army and the new:--
"Some of you have already won imperishable renown at our first landing, or have since built up our foothold upon the peninsula, yard by yard, with deeds of heroism and endurance. Others have arrived just in time to take part in our next great fight against Germany and Turkey, the would-be oppressors of the rest of the human race.
"You, veterans, are about to add fresh lustre to your arms. Happen what may, so much at least is certain.
"As to you, soldiers of the new formations, you are privileged indeed to have the chance vouchsafed you of playing a decisive part in events which may herald the birth of a new and happier world. You stand for the great cause of freedom. In the hour of trial remember this, and the faith that is in you will bring you victoriously through.
"IAN HAMILTON, General."
For five days and nights the battle raged on Gallipoli. The cannon roared incessantly; big guns, little guns, field guns, mortars, ships' guns, and howitzers belching forth their iron hail till the earth trembled again.
Hardly heard amid the thunderous roar of artillery were the interminable rattle of musketry, and the spiteful snapping of Maxims. From the firing fine to the base, hardly a square foot of ground seemed safe from shrapnel shells and high explosives. Probably 200,000 men were engaged, hacking at each other day and night; for this seemed the decisive battle of the Gallipoli campaign.
It made one's blood flow faster and tingle with pride to see the magnificent way our young Australians played the great game of war. Hemmed in and cooped up in the trenches for weary weeks, they had at last been let loose upon the enemy at Lone Pine. Like hounds from the leash, they charged across the bullet-swept area between the contending armies. The Turkish lines spat fire from every loophole, and machine-guns seemed to revel in murderous music. On swept the line, thinned but dauntless. Heroes fell on every side. Enfilading volleys swept across from the side. To us on the right the men seemed to falter for a space; but it was only to hack their way through the maze of barbed wire. Then they scrambled over the sandbags, their last obstacle, and bayoneted the Turks by scores. One wild mêlée on the parapet--thrust, lunge, and parry--then the trenches were ours.
This charge was only one little episode in the long, long struggle of those early days of August. Each time the Turks massed for a charge Colonel Rosenthal's guns tore great rents in their ranks, and wrought havoc in their trenches. But again and again their bomb-throwers--hidden behind the communication trenches--massed and endeavoured to retake the position.
On the left the Australian and New Zealand Division, with whom were our 3rd Light Horse Brigade, made a splendid advance over shrapnel-swept ravines, defended by trenches and machine-guns cunningly hidden in the scrub. They charged the heights like the Highlanders at Darghai, but against a far more formidable foe. They suffered terribly, especially the Light Horsemen, but there was no stopping them.
Hundreds of prisoners were captured, much ammunition, many rifles, and a few machine-guns. The prisoners stated that the Australians' attack was a complete surprise. But a far greater surprise awaited them. At night in the offing there was only seen one hospital ship, though now and then a destroyer sent its searchlight on to the hills. But when the first streaks of dawn-light fell on the Ægean Sea the amazed Turks beheld a vast flotilla, and in futile anger the German staff officers witnessed another landing on Gallipoli. Almost unmolested, a new British force landed at Suvla Bay, for the Turks had hurried all their reinforcements back to stem the onrush of the Australasians. Several warships and a score of destroyers glided into the bay or round the projecting horns, and sent a veritable tornado of shells on to the enemy's position.
A dozen big transports came up and emptied their khaki freight into a hundred barges, pinnaces, launches, and sweepers. The new force landed, formed up, and marched inland against the Turkish right. At first the resistance was feeble, and the enemy was driven back beyond the salt lake towards the hills. More troops were hurried up from Gallipoli, and the fight waxed more strenuous. Nothing in the war has provoked so much keen disappointment and vitriolic criticism as the Suvla Bay business. We who saw the landing, mingled with the British troops and knew how much depended on the success of the venture, are perhaps not the best critics. We do not know all the facts of the case. We think Sir Ian Hamilton's strategy was brilliant. We know the work of the Navy was magnificent. We fear that after the landing, the attack was not pushed home with that vigour and determination which were essential for the success of the operation. Precious time was lost, and while the British hesitated the Turks hurried up reinforcements and once more barred the way to Constantinople. And we had hoped that August would herald the beginning of the end.
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The First Infantry Brigade of the Australian Division did big things since landing on Gallipoli--glorious deeds that will be the pride and boast of successive generations of Australians. It was Colonel Maclagan's 3rd Brigade that achieved undying fame by the electric daring of its picturesque landing, but it was the 1st Brigade which, following hot on the heels of the gallant Thirds on that memorable day, swarmed up the heights and drove back at the point of the bayonet the successive swarms of fanatical Turks who tried in vain to drive them into the sea. But how dearly was that victory won! How the ranks of these gallant Sydneysiders were decimated! It was small comfort to us to know that Constantinople reported 120,000 Turkish casualties for the three months after our landing.
The list of senior officers killed was appalling; not one of the original battalion commanders retained his command. Not less tragic was the loss of junior officers. In the Lone Pine attack the 3rd Battalion lost eight officers killed and nine wounded; while the 2nd Battalion lost nine killed and eight wounded. We captured many prisoners, several machine-guns, and many thousands of rounds of ammunition. But the cost to young Australia was so heavy!
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Lone Pine Ridge was situated right in front of the centre of the Australians' position, and was strongly held and fortified like a little Gibraltar. The overhead cover was so strong that our shells made little impression on the Turkish trenches. Machine-guns punctuated the line at regular intervals. The open space in front was swept by enfilading fire from the Bloody Angle on the left and the Pine Ridge on the right, while the German gunners behind Gun Ridge had the range to a nicety. A network of barbed wire entanglements provided a nasty obstacle right in front of their trenches, while "posies" for expert snipers and bomb-throwers completed their defence works. To the trained soldier the position looked absolutely impregnable.
But our lads were well trained. They reckoned they were veterans. I who had visited them in camp and on the march round about Liverpool knew the stuff of which they were made. Yet there were those who, ere they left Sydney, said the Australians would only do garrison duty, as it would be murder to put them in the firing line. Competent critics held that General Birdwood was the luckiest man in the army in getting the command of the Australians, for no troops in the world could do what they have done. Is this boasting? Ask the British staff officers. Ask the French. Ask the Gurkhas and the other Indian soldiers.
[Illustration: Entrance to Lone Pine, which was so hardly won.]
The First Infantry Brigade fired not a single shot during the great charge. It was all bayonet work. In the ranks were many of the heroes who landed on the memorable 25th of April, were wounded, and were now back in the firing line. Others had been in the thick of it all the time; no periodical spells such as the soldiers in Flanders get. Others again were the latest reinforcements who left Sydney in June, and landed the evening before the battle. Yet these raw youngsters, having their first experience under fire, charged with the best, and wielded a bloody bayonet within the hour. And many of them--Dr. Digges la Touche amongst the number--perished in their first fight.
Prior to the charge our artillery opened a heavy bombardment of the Lone Pine trenches. Shrapnel and high explosives rained down on the Turkish lines. The Turkish gunners in turn opened on our lines a devastating fire, and the resultant roar of heavy guns and screeching of shells created a veritable inferno.
I don't know how long it lasted, but suddenly our guns ceased, and on the instant our gallant infantry sprang from their trenches and charged straight ahead. They were over our parapets and well on their way before the Turks could realize it. Then rifles and machine-guns started a murderous fusillade, while the guns in the background sent a hail of shrapnel. Thick and fast fell the attackers. One marvels how any escaped that hell of fire. But, fortunately, only a small percentage of the Turks are marksmen. The German machine-gunners, however, were very deadly, and the enfilading fire from Pine Ridge increased in volume and effectiveness and the trail to Lonesome Pine was strewn with khaki figures. Our Light Horse on the right had all their crack shots picking off the Turks on Pine Ridge, while our field guns in Hughes's battery at point-blank range helped to keep the enfilading fire from this quarter down to a minimum.
Meanwhile the Firsts had almost reached their goal. They were checked for a space by the barbed wire; but hacking their way through they scaled the enemy's parapets, tore aside the overhead cover, leaped into the trenches, and then, free from the murderous cross-fire of machine-guns, they resolutely set to work with the bayonet to finish the job. Since the days of Plevna the Turk has been reckoned second to no soldiers in the world behind the trenches and parapets. I am not in a position to dispute this, but I do claim that in the open or with the bayonet the Turk is not a match for the Australians. Right along the trenches and saps the Firsts fought their way, bayoneting every Turk or German who did not immediately throw down his rifle. Here and there the defenders made some resistance, and little knots of them would rally for a minute or two. But the Firsts flew at them like eagle-hawks, and a neat bit of bayonet work settled the Turks for good and all.
As to the part played by the Light Horse Brigades in the general scheme of attack, it fell to General Ryrie's Second Brigade to hold the right of the line opposite Gaba Tepe. We made minor demonstrations against the enemy, cleaned out a few of his trenches, kept his snipers very much in subjection, mined and counter-mined, and blew up Abdul's tunnel just when he thought he was going to do the same to us. Also, we kept each day a fresh squadron in Lonesome Pine to assist in defending against the Turkish counter-attacks. Our losses had not been great, considering the slaughter all along the line. Since landing we had had just over 600 casualties, of whom 105 were killed; also we had had several hundred sent sick to hospital.
General Chauvel's First Brigade had suffered much more heavily. They had well performed their share of the trench fighting since May. In the big battle the First Regiment had to advance under a murderous fire from Pope's Hill, and take the Turkish trenches opposite the Bloody Angle. Captain Laurie, with A Squadron, scaled the parapets and charged across the bullet-swept interval, while Captain Cox, with B Squadron, crawled up a gully; and then both squadrons rushed to the attack.
Without firing a shot, they captured three successive trenches, bayoneting the defenders, and then swept on. Twelve officers and 200 troopers made that dashing charge, and without reinforcements they withstood all the Turkish counter-attacks from four o'clock in the afternoon till half-past six. But the slaughter was cruel. Fewer and fewer were left to defend the hard-won trenches. From all sides the enemy threw bombs and grenades. Our bombs were all gone. At last the remnant had to retire. Major Reid was killed; Captain Cox so badly wounded that he died a few days later; only fifty unwounded men regained our trenches. Of all the officers, Major Glasgow alone was unwounded.
A worse fate befel the 3rd Brigade, under General Hughes. In their attack on Walker's Ridge they lost thirty-two officers and 400 men in ten minutes. They swarmed out of our trenches and sprang forward; and then so terrific was the hail of bullets that they fell in heaps. It almost looked as if they had thrown themselves prone to get cover. Machine-guns swept the area from end to end. The 8th (Victorian) and 10th (Western Australian) Light Horse Regiments just thinned out and wilted away. About a hundred unwounded men came back from that hell.
Later on the 3rd Brigade had their revenge. When the New Zealand and Australian Division swept forward, driving the enemy before them, and capturing trench after trench, there remained one spot on the line of ridges that baffled the attack. Both sides dug in, and had a few days' respite. Then the 10th Light Horse hurled themselves on the stubborn Turks, cleaned out their trenches, and with bloody bayonets stood masters of the hill. It was only a remnant of the regiment that remained, but they baffled every effort of the Turks to dislodge them.
One spot further along the line had at length given way to the pressure of the enemy's attacks. The New Zealanders, after some magnificent fighting for several days, had been driven back from one point on the line. It was essential that the position should be retaken and our advanced line linked up. So the 9th Light Horse Regiment was sent forward to do the job, and they did it brilliantly....
The pen seems so futile a thing to depict the scene. It was the same thing day after day. A stealthy advance through the scrub, a rattle of snipers' rifles, then wild cheers, as the Australians scrambled up the hill; a terrific fusillade as they neared their objective; a glint of gleaming bayonets as they charged the trenches; then the wild mêlée of hand-to-hand fighting, when one Australian always reckons himself a match for three Turks; and finally the shout of victory.
And through it all the stretcher-bearers were real true-blue. Under the heaviest fire they went right up to the firing-line, tended the wounded, and carried them back to the field hospitals. Oh, you, who think the Army Medical Corps is always comfortably and safely situated at the base, pray be undeceived! Their part is just as hazardous as that of the soldier of the line.
Soon the cheers of the victors and the cries of the Turks died down. Above the groans of the wounded could be heard the staccato tones of the officers ordering platoons and sections this way and that to defend the position against counter-attacks.
Scores of prisoners were led away. Hundreds of captured rifles were stacked. German machine-guns were faced about and manned. Bomb-throwers were placed in position. Hot tea was served out to the men. Night fell. Lone Pine was ours. The successive ridges on our left towards Hill 971 had all been captured by the New Zealanders, and our 4th Infantry Brigade under General Monash and the 3rd Light Horse Brigade under General Hughes. The big battle of Suvla Bay was over. But it was only a partial victory. Despite our gains and our losses the Turks still blocked the way to Constantinople.
TRUTH IN WAR STRONGER THAN FICTION--IS IT FATE OR LUCK?--CLOSE SHAVES FOR GENERALS AND SERGEANTS--SWIMMERS, AND SHELLS NOT OF OCEAN--A FATAL RICOCHET--BURIED AND DISENTOMBED
When I was a good little boy going to Sunday school, teacher gave me a book entitled _Wonderful Escapes_. I read it with absorbing interest, for it told of the marvellous escapes of princes and princesses from fortified castles in the hands of their enemies.
Yet these delightful tales which so thrilled my youthful imagination pale into insignificance and seem quite commonplace when compared with the hair-breadth escapes which I have witnessed, and which I have myself experienced since the 2nd Light Horse Brigade landed on battle-scarred Gallipoli.
With the Taubes dropping bombs and darts from the sky, with the Turks undermining and blowing up our advanced trenches, with snipers cunningly concealed on the ridges, and the enemy's big guns sending high explosives right across the Peninsula, there is really not a single safe spot in all Gallipoli. So, when these Australian soldiers get home again and fight their battles o'er again, don't disbelieve them. The truth here is much more startling than any fiction.
I vouch for the absolute accuracy of the following incidents, for they all came within my own ken. Some will say 'tis "luck"; some, "fate." Others speak of the law of averages. It may be that the prayers of thousands of Australian mothers and sisters beseeching Heaven for the safety of their loved ones are not all in vain. For in very truth there have been occasions when escape from instant death has savoured of the supernatural. Men have left their dug-outs for a few seconds, and almost on the instant a shell has wrecked those same dug-outs. Others have seen shells fall on the identical spot they occupied a few seconds before. Men have come back scatheless from the open field which has been ploughed with shrapnel. Some have charged across the hills in the teeth of murderous machine-guns, which were spitting death-pellets unceasingly.
General Birdwood was having a look at the enemy's position when a sniper's bullet parted his hair and split his scalp. Half an inch lower would have been certain death. It would take pages and pages to tell of the lucky escapes I could relate.
Take the case of Colonel Ryrie, now a brigadier-general. There is a very comforting idea that regimental headquarters are always a long way behind the firing-line, while brigade headquarters are further back still. Therefore, it is argued, a brigadier has a nice, safe job. This may be all right in theory, but it does not work out so in practice. I call to mind that hearty send-off given to the then Colonel Ryrie by his constituents at North Sydney, and what the recipient of that favour said on the occasion. "Don't you worry about me," he said, "I'll come back all right. They may knock some corners off me, but they won't get me." Some "corners" have been knocked off him. I do not believe there has been a day when the Brigadier-General has not visited the firing-line of his brigade--up to the time when a bullet got him in the neck and he was lost to us for some time in hospital. Time and again he has taken the sniper's "posey" and mingled in a bit of sharpshooting himself. Also, he has at different times gone in advance of our firing-line to select new positions. Once, with his brigade-major and orderly officer, he suddenly stopped to watch a squadron at bayonet exercise, and a shrapnel shell burst, and the case landed right in front of him. Had he not stopped, it is certain the party would have been wiped out.
On another occasion the Brigadier-General and Major Onslow, Major Suttor, Major Windeyer, Major Rutledge, Captain Miller and Captain Higgins were outside Colonel Arnott's dug-out, when three shells burst overhead. No one was hurt, though a fragment of shell landed in the midst of them. There is always so much more landscape to hit than man.
Such incidents can be multiplied by the score. Sergeant Christie Hayden--who was badly wounded in South Africa--emerged from his dug-out the other day, and a shell missed him by inches, and wrecked his little grey home. Sergeant Paddy Ryan, Sergeant Ken Alford, and Lieutenant Pearce were standing together on Holly Ridge a few days ago and a sniper's bullet perforated the hats of both the sergeants, and missed the officer by a fraction of an inch. I wonder did that sniper wait till he got the three in line, instead of making sure of one? Trooper Sandy Jacques showed his head over a parapet for a couple of seconds, and a sniper fired, but by a merciful dispensation of Providence, the bullet split just before reaching him. The nickel casing went to the right, and the leaden missile to the left. So Jacques got a slight wound on each side of the head, and was able to walk to the ambulance. Some wag has suggested that the bullet knew very well what to expect if it struck Sandy's head, so it took the line of least resistance; another said that Jacques was wounded by two different bullets from a machine-gun. Lieutenant Lang sent a man for water. As he walked away a high explosive shell passed right between his legs and then exploded. The soldier merely exclaimed "Strewth!"
Here's an example of good and bad luck following one upon the other's heels. The Turks bombarded our lines, and hurled half a dozen shells into our trench, smashing down parapets, wrecking rifles and gear, splathering bullets and splinters everywhere, and yet miraculously missing everybody. Later on a single stray bullet found its way through a loophole, ran off at an eccentric angle, and killed young Trooper Bellinger, one of the best lads in the Sixth.
I went down to Anzac Cove for a swim. About 500 soldiers were having a glorious time--better than Bondi. Half a dozen shells landed in the water, while the pellets splashed all round like hail. Most of the swimmers sought shelter; some took not the slightest notice. Not one man was hit! But they are not always as lucky as that. Sometimes they pay for their temerity. Trumpeter Newman and I stood outside the field hospital a week ago, and a big howitzer shell burst fairly in front of us, killing or wounding a dozen men. Neither of us suffered a scratch, but there was a ringing in my ears for hours afterwards.
Lieutenant Ferguson was out on Ryrie's Post, beyond the firing-line, for over an hour, while the Turkish artillery just dotted the whole area with shrapnel. Hardly a square yard missed getting something, yet he never stopped one. When Sergeant Shelley walked along Shell Green a shell burst, and we could hardly see him for the dust kicked up by the flying shrapnel bullets, yet he never got a scratch. Another shell just shaved an infantryman, who turned round, shook his fist at it, and swore loud and long. A second shell came after the first, so close that it almost took the soldier's breath away. He did not wait to swear again, but ran like a scared rabbit to his dug-out!
An infantry officer vouched for the accuracy of the following story:--Two "Jack Johnson" shells (probably fired from the _Goeben_) landed in quick succession in a trench occupied by half-a-dozen Australians. The first tore down the parapet and buried one of the soldiers. Before his mates could dig him out the second shell burst in and disentombed him.
THE CHURCH MILITANT
DEATH OF DIGGES LA TOUCHE--A GREAT SPIRITUAL LOSS--THE CROSS AND THE CRESCENT--A SPLENDID RECORD--ANDREW GILLISON'S DEATH--A GALLANT CHRISTIAN SOLDIER--DUTY'S SACRIFICE
La Touche is dead....
Digges La Touche, the brilliant scholar, the fervid evangelist, the militant divine, the fiery orator, the pugnacious debater, the uncompromising Unionist, the electric Irishman--Digges La Touche, the patriot, is dead: killed in his first battle, yea, in the first minute of his first battle.
It came as a shock to those of us who knew him in camp. It will come as a bigger shock to those who knew him in the Church, for it seems scarcely more than a month since they bade him God-speed in Sydney. He landed in Gallipoli on August 5, the eve of the big battle. That night he went into the trenches. Next day he participated in the gallant charge of the First Brigade which found its culmination in the capture of Lone Pine Ridge. But La Touche never reached the Turkish trenches. Charging at the head of his platoon, he had barely got beyond our own trenches when a bullet struck him in the body. He fell. Later he managed to crawl back to our trenches--and died.
For ten months he had pleaded with Church and State to let him serve as a soldier of the king. For ten weeks he wore the uniform of an officer of the Australian Imperial Force. For ten hours he did duty in the trenches. For ten brief seconds he knew the wild exultation of the charge. Then there passed away a great-hearted Britisher, strong of soul and clear of vision, who counted it a great privilege to fight and die for his king and country. The Crescent had glorified the Cross.
The pity of it all was that none of his friends knew he had arrived. The Dean of Sydney--Chaplain-Colonel Talbot--was about to read the burial service over eighteen soldiers who had perished in the charge. He heard the name, and looked and saw his friend. That was the first he knew of Lieutenant La Touche's arrival on Gallipoli--his arrival and departure.
When we of the Sixth Light Horse first went into camp at Rosebery Park, La Touche was there with the Thirteenth Battalion, under Colonel Burnage, one of the most popular, as he afterwards proved one of the most gallant, officers who ever donned a uniform. Dr. Digges La Touche desired first to go as a chaplain, but was not selected. Far be it from me to reflect on the judgment of the Archbishop of Perth who selected the Anglican chaplains, but I have seen chaplains with not one tithe of the qualifications that La Touche had for the job. Failing selection as a chaplain, he enlisted as a private in the First Contingent. But he was not over-robust and was transferred to the Second Contingent, and rose to be a colour-sergeant in the Thirteenth. The Primate objected to ministers serving as soldiers, and the friends of Digges La Touche time and again urged him to remain behind. But his determination was fixed, and though health considerations compelled his withdrawal from the Thirteenth Battalion he attended an officers' training school and gained a commission as second lieutenant; and he left Sydney in June with the Sixth Reinforcements of the Second Battalion. Then, after a brief spell in Egypt, he came to Gallipoli.
Before he got his commission La Touche was a great recruiting sergeant. He never left in the minds of his hearers any doubts as to his opinion of Prussian militarism and savagery. His addresses on the war were fiery orations, inspiring men to patriotic self-sacrifice and zeal for Empire. He summoned all the riches of his intellect to confound, refute and castigate the nation that had done such scathe to Belgium. And though no Turk or Hun died by his hand, Dr. La Touche inspired many young Australians to take their place in the firing-line. Some of these were with him in the fatal charge. He saw them dash on through the bursting shrapnel, and he heard the cheers of victory as they gained the parapets, bayoneted the defenders and captured the position. As one thinks of him cut off in the prime of life, when the unbalanced enthusiasm of his youth had hardly been tempered by experience, there comes a feeling of revolt against the decrees of the God of Battles.
But Everard Digges La Touche was only one of the many brilliant young men who have laid down their lives in this cruel war. Remembering the inspiration of his example, one feels that he did not die in vain.
Others will speak of his scholarship--he was a student in law, arts and theology, and a lecturer of Trinity College, Dublin, before he went to Australia. I have seen him in the pulpit, in Synod and on the public platform, but I leave it to others to appraise his churchmanship. I merely record, with heartfelt sorrow, how Lieutenant La Touche died a soldier's death on Gallipoli.
The Church Militant! Was it ever so militant as now, when all the powers of darkness, all the forces of the Devil, are arrayed against Christianity and all the manifold blessings of Civilization? Look at stricken Belgium and the battlefields of France, where hundreds of priests combine their holy offices as chaplains with the duties of the soldier, a Bible in one hand, a sword in the other! See, at the head of Russian armies, priests leading the soldiers into battle! And here, on Gallipoli ...
We have our chaplains, and we have ministers of the Gospel fighting as "happy warriors" in the ranks. Digges La Touche had the character of the happy warrior, who
While the mortal mist is gathering, draws His breath in confidence of Heaven's applause.
But it matters little whether they go forth as armed men in the Great Crusade, or to fight the good fight by ministering to the dying, or to read the burial service over the dead, they all must needs be brave men, ready to risk their lives. Death is very close to all of us in this war--chaplains, doctors, stretcher-bearers and all.
Brave men, yes. Fighting parsons, soldier saints, whether they be chaplains, or whether they have forsaken the study for the stricken field, the pulpit for the platoon, or whether they be in the Army Medical Corps, heroes of the Red Cross of Geneva. Some have been killed, some wounded.
Andrew Gillison is one of those who has gone to his rest--one of Gallipoli's heroes. Chaplain-Captain Andrew Gillison, of the Fourteenth Battalion, Fourth Infantry Brigade, was the first of the Australian army chaplains to be killed. Prior to the war--and that seems a long, long time ago--he was a minister of St. George's Presbyterian Church, East St. Kilda, and before that he was at St. Paul's, Brisbane. He was well known and greatly loved throughout the whole Presbyterian Church of Australia. He was no sour-visaged, long-faced Christian. His religion was cheerful, optimistic and joyous. I met him at St. Andrew's, Cairo, and then I knew why the Fourth Brigade almost worshipped him. On the transport he was a prime favourite. He sang a good comic song. He entered into the boxing tournament. He won his first bout in fine style. Then he got a hiding, and took his beating like a man.
It was meet that such a man should die giving his life for another. Greater love hath no man than this; and Andrew Gillison would not have willed it otherwise. It was while performing a work of necessity and mercy on Sunday morning, August 22, that he was shot, and he died a few hours afterwards.
The New Zealand and Australian Division had made a most gallant attack on the hills occupied by the Turks. Pressing home the attack with the bayonet, they drove the enemy from trench to trench and from ridge to ridge. Deeds of valour were performed day after day and night after night. Heroes died on every side, with no historian to tell how gallantly they died. One of these young Australians was wounded in the charge, and lay some distance behind the advanced position. It was then that two fighting parsons came along a communication trench, which was comparatively safe from rifle fire, but offered little protection from shrapnel. From a slight hollow they saw the wounded man, in evident agony, raise his hand, and try to move. Captain Gillison and Corporal Pittenrigh--who is a Methodist minister when not a soldier--decided to try to effect a rescue, though they knew a machine-gun was trained on the trench, and had been warned to beware of snipers. Mounting the parapet, they crawled along some distance towards the wounded man. A couple of bullets zipped by, but they pushed on. More bullets flew, and both the rescuers were wounded.
Then they tried to regain the shelter of the trench, and Gillison was wounded again, but his companion managed to scramble in. Mortally wounded in the chest and the side, the poor chaplain lay in the open, but was soon carried in and conveyed to the field hospital. He was conscious for a while and cheerful, though he knew his hours were numbered. He was able to greet Chaplains F. Colwell and G. T. Walden, who had just arrived with Colonel Holmes's Australian Brigade, and Chaplain J. M. Dale of Brisbane. Before two o'clock he was dead, dying as he had lived, a gallant Christian soldier.
That night, wrapped in a Union Jack, he was buried. It was bright moonlight. Out in the Ægean the warships and hospital ships lay passive. Back in the hills sounded the ceaseless rattle of musketry. Chaplain-Colonel E. N. Merrington conducted a brief service, at which were chaplains of all denominations and several officers and men of his brigade and battalion. The little shallow grave lies a couple of miles north of Anzac, on the edge of the five-mile beach that stretches on to Suvla Bay. As with the hero of Corunna, "we carved not a line, and we raised not a stone--but we left him alone with his glory." His comrades went back to the firing-line with the memory of his self-sacrifice to cheer them on. And we thought then of Longfellow's beautiful lines--
Dust thou art, to dust returneth, Was not spoken of the soul.
Soon the battalion will erect a little wooden cross over his grave--one more of those little wooden crosses that are so numerous on Gallipoli. We who knew and loved him will never forget Andrew Gillison.
PARKES, TRESILIAN, ELLIS--POSITION OF THE NON-COMS.--THE "FIGHTING SIXTH"--THE GERMAN SPY AGAIN--EASILY BEATS THE CENSOR--WHAT THE NIGGERS KNEW ABOUT US--PADDY RYAN'S LUCK
Non-commissioned officers are the backbone of the British army!
This is high praise, of course, yet it is well merited; and I think the same tribute can be paid to the non-coms. of the Australian Imperial Force.
For our non-coms. hold their office by virtue of their merit. It is simply a case of the survival of the fittest. We all started off scratch. There was keen competition for stripes when our regiment was first formed. The best men were selected. There was no favouritism. Some old soldiers had an initial advantage, but all the appointments were provisional at first, and they were all tried in the crucible. Only the pure gold was retained; the baser metal was rejected.
The result was that when the 6th Light Horse Regiment left Sydney it had a body of non-commissioned officers who would compare favourably with any in the world. It was a great pity that the people of Sydney never saw the "Fighting Sixth" ride through the metropolis. In Egypt they were reckoned the best mounted regiment that ever left Australia. The limelight has been turned right on to subsequent volunteers. Other contingents--months and months and months after we left--bathed in the smiles of the multitude. Special trains were run in order that the country folk should see them. But our brigade, the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, comprising the 5th, 6th and 7th L.H. Regiments, were hunted off like thieves in the night. In deadly secrecy we struck camp. In the dawn hush we stealthily slunk through the city streets. We were all on board the transports before Sydney was well awake. The papers were not allowed to publish a line about our departure. So the country folk came to see their sons and brothers off--too late. The whole city knew it--too late. Every German spy in Australia knew it--early. When we arrived at Aden a nigger on the gangway of the transport told us to a man the constitution of the force, the number of ships, and our destination. So cleverly had our censors concealed our movements!
* * * * *
So it is a pity the brigade never rode with clinking snaffles and clanking stirrups through the city--more for the sake of the city than the soldiers themselves. Also because many of our soldiers will never again see George Street, or Pitt Street, or Martin Place, or Macquarie Street. The wastage of war has had its effect. We have been under fire day and night. Snipers have taken their toll. Machine-guns have added to the casualties. Shrapnel shells and high explosives have torn gaps in our ranks. In killed and wounded we have lost over half our original strength.
There were three sergeants of the 6th Light Horse Regiment, who now are resting in little shallow graves in Gallipoli. Never again will they watch the sun go down in splendour into the Ægean Sea. When we go marching into Berlin they will be with us--but only in spirit; and when the war is over and the boys from the bush ride home again, there will be three sergeants missing. But their names will be emblazoned on Australia's roll of honour. And we of the Sixth won't forget Sergeant Sid Parkes, Sergeant F. R. Tresilian, and Sergeant Fred Ellis.
Sid Parkes was small and slight, so small that he was almost rejected by the medical examiner. He had to show his South African record, and remind the doctor that giants were not wanted in the Light Horse, but light, active, wiry horsemen. So he just scraped through and went into camp. I remember him at Rosebery Park. Not much over five feet three, only about nine stone, but active and strong. He knew his mounted drill like a book, and he knew how to handle men; so he soon got his three stripes--and stuck to them. The men liked him. The officers appreciated him. We saw several other sergeants made and unmade, but Parkes of B Squadron was a fixture.
Already he had seen four years' peace service, and eighteen months' active service in South Africa with the New South Wales Mounted Rifles. So he brought the lessons of his previous experience to bear on his new job. On parade he did his duty well. Off duty he was a humorist, and as care-free as a schoolboy. On the transport he entered into all the fun going. In Egypt he played the game. Somehow, I always thought Parkes would come safely through the war. We joked together the night we first went into the trenches, never anticipating ill. Yet he was the first man of the regiment killed in the trenches. A sniper's bullet came through a loophole and killed him on the spot.
* * * * *
Frederick George Ellis, sergeant in C Squadron, was an Englishman from Hants. He had spent five years in the Royal Navy, some of the time on the China station. He was one of the few survivors of H.M.S. _Tiger_, which was rammed and sunk during the naval manoeuvres off Spithead. Three years ago he came to Australia to get colonial experience, prior to settling on the land. A few years in the nor'-west, at Bogamildi and Terala stations, transformed the sailor into a bushman. So he came to Sydney when war broke out, and joined the 6th Light Horse. He rose to be lance-sergeant. On July 12 he was killed by a shrapnel shell on Holly Ridge. Several of our fellows were killed and wounded that day, for the Turks dropped 200 shells on the Light Horse lines, and for an hour or two it was terrific.
* * * * *
A strong, dominant personality was Tresilian, one of the very best troop sergeants that ever joined the Light Horse. He seemed to love the firing-line like home. He was quite fearless. Somehow he seemed to revel in the roar of battle. On one occasion the Turks sent a dozen shells at our little section of the trenches, smashing down the parapets, making the place a wreck, wounding two men, and half blinding, half deafening, half choking, half burying six of us. When I could see and hear and breathe again I saw Tresilian laughing merrily. "Hello, Bluegum," he said, "not killed yet?"
He came from Humula, near Wagga, where his people were well-known farmers. Till a young man he remained on the farm, and was known throughout the district as a good "sport"--a good cricketer and footballer, and a fine rider and shot, just the typical Australian Light Horseman, though more sturdily built than the average. He tired, however, of the farm, and yearned for the freer life of the Western plains. So he tackled station life, became a station manager, rode over the whole of the north-west, went to the Northern Territory in search of pastoral lands, and when the war broke out was managing a station in the Boggabri district. He had seen service in South Africa, and he once more volunteered to serve the King.
On Gallipoli his scouting and patrol work were excellent. He seemed to have a charmed life, for he had many narrow escapes in the open and in the trenches. On the day he was killed a bullet whizzed past his head, just wounding his cheek slightly. Later on he and Sergeant Paddy Ryan were putting barbed wire entanglements in front of our trenches. A sniper's rifle cracked. Ryan escaped. Tresilian fell dead.
RUM AND MAILS--"BATTLE OF MAIL RUM"--LETTERS FROM HOME--MARRIAGE NO FAILURE--AN UNFORGIVABLE LOSS--THE CLERGYMAN'S "LANGUAGE"--PAPER SCARCE--FAMINE IN ENVELOPES--"NO STAMPS"--FOOLING THE TURKS--"WELL OUT OF IT"
"Serves 'em right, for sinking our mails and spilling our rum!"
This remark broke from the angry lips of one of our Light Horsemen as our artillery inflicted a terrific bombardment on the enemy. The Turks replied vigorously, and the result was an inferno; shells bursting everywhere, gaping holes torn in the inoffensive earth, trench parapets levelled, soldiers slaughtered. Then, as our warships steamed up and added their quota to the conflict, the trooper reiterated, "Serve 'em right!"
For a moment we wondered what he was driving at. Then we remembered that a few days ago some unlucky Turkish shells had landed on a barge coming from one of the supply ships to Anzac, and had sunk it. This caused us but slight concern till we found out that several casks of rum were spilled, and 250 bags of mails from Australia were sent to the bottom of the sea. Then, as our ships' guns sent another salvo, we too exclaimed, "Serve 'em right."
We did not mind the rum so much, for the Army Service Corps had quite enough on hand for our ration when the issue was due. But every Australian on Gallipoli bitterly resented the loss of the mails. It made us really angry. Some of our chaps reckoned that the loss of the mails and rum was the prime cause of the big battle which ensued during the early days of August. So they have called it the Battle of Mail Rum. Historians, however, will probably call this sanguinary struggle the Battle of Suvla Bay.
Good folk at home, and even of the out-back country, receive mails pretty regularly. We get ours once a fortnight, or once a month, or at even longer intervals. I do not join in the general chorus of condemnation of our postal service, for since the time I enlisted nearly twelve months ago all my letters and parcels have come duly to hand, while, so far as I know, none of my letters to Australia have gone astray. When we came to Gallipoli we naturally expected some break in the continuity of the service--and we got it. One reason is that, while the New Zealanders provided an up-to-date, well-equipped postal service, the Australians had only a skeleton postal corps--shockingly undermanned. Hence the congestion at Alexandria and Lemnos and the belated arrival of letters at Anzac.
There is nothing that cheers the soldiers up so much as letters from home. You see their eyes light up with pleasure as the postal orderlies toil up the hill with the mail bags. The postal corporal is the most popular man in the army. But he always seems so slow with his sorting. Those of us not in the trenches crowd round him and pounce eagerly on our precious missives. I have seen a great, hulking, swearing, unshaven trooper grab his letter, sneak into his dug-out, and kiss reverently some love-letter from a sweetheart back in sunny New South Wales; or perhaps it was from his mother or sister away in the great West land. And I've seen anxious troopers, with yearning eyes, hang round till the last letter and postcard were sorted--then wander away silently, and gaze dry-eyed over the blue Mediterranean.
Some of our fellows are married men, and some of these married men used jokingly to say that they had enlisted to get away from ... never mind; but I know that there was not one of them but spent half his time thinking of the old and the middle-aged and the young folks at home--not one of them but would have given the world to be able to take a peep at the wife who scanned the casualty lists so eagerly as they appeared in the papers, and the kiddies who strutted round proudly, saying, "Daddy's gone to the war."
It's cruel to be forgotten by the home folk when fighting the battles of one's country; but most of our chaps are loyal, and they always blamed the post office. One time our 6th L.H. Regiment mail had not arrived, and I stood by miserably watching other lucky devils getting their letters. Suddenly my eye caught the address on a newspaper, "To any lonely soldier in the Australian army." I immediately grabbed it. There was a protest from the postal official, who said the paper was not addressed to me, and that unclaimed papers are considered as "baksheesh" for the postal corporal. I pointed out that it was not unclaimed, since I had claimed it; and that as I at that moment was a lonely soldier it was clearly addressed to me. There was a fine row, but I won my case--and the paper.
Always at the end of the sorting there are many, many letters unclaimed. And the Regimental Sergeant-Major goes through the list, and with heavy red pencil writes "killed," "wounded," or "missing" on the envelope. What a tragedy lies hidden in these little heaps of letters to dead soldiers who can never read them!
It was no small loss, that barge with 250 mail bags from Australia. When I saw the barge sink I repeated the prayer of the popular English preacher, who exclaimed, "God damn the Sultan!" Why should that love-laden barge be the mark for the Turkish gunners? And why, after the hundreds of boats they have missed, should they get a bull's-eye there? It is sad to think of the thousands of soldiers who will never know the loving thoughts penned in those precious missives. Many will wonder why friends and relations have never written. And folks at home will be wondering why they got no answer.
For a time we simply could not write home. There was an envelope famine on Gallipoli. Not a single envelope could be had for love or money. We readdressed our old envelopes, or turned them inside out. We made post cards out of cardboard and cigarette boxes. Some of us even wrote home on the biscuits, which were warranted not to break. We waylaid sailors on the beach and offered fabulous prices for paper and envelopes. We wrote to our friends in Ma'adi and to the stores in Alexandria. But it's a long, long way to Egypt, and it seemed a long, long time before the envelope famine was relieved. That's one reason why some of our chaps never wrote home. Another reason was that we were all so tired after our turn in the trenches and the eternal "dig on, dig ever." As for stamps, everybody in Australia knows the legend on the soldier's envelope: "No stamps available."
Some of the letters home were delightfully ingenuous. Nearly all were brimful of cheerfulness. Now and then there was a growl; but we knew it wouldn't help the home folk if we complained, so I might paraphrase the Psalmist and say that all our men were liars--cheerful liars. I told you of the trooper who wrote home, "Dear aunt, this war is a fair cow." But that was exceptional. Most of the soldiers told cheerful lies about the good time they were having, the romance of war, the excitement of battle, and the exhilaration of victory. They told of the tricks they played on the Turks, the dummies they held above the parapets for Abdul to snipe at, the "stunts" for drawing the fire from the enemy's trenches, the risky excitement of bomb duels, the joy of swimming while "Beachy Bill" was showering shrapnel over them, and the extortionate rates charged by the sailor on the beach for condensed milk and chocolates.
But a real "grouse"--never. Well, hardly ever. And when there was one, depend upon it there was some good reason for it. I remember one. It was when a man in Australia wrote to a friend at Anzac: "We're having a rather bad drought in this district; you're well out of it." The man at Anzac fairly lost his temper. He wrote back: "Come over here." And after painting a picture of a battle or two--a real growl, if ever there was one--he concluded: "It's nearly as bad as your drought, and you're 'well out of it'."
Later, I was told, these two men met on the bloodstained fields of Gallipoli.
BATTLE-WORN VETERANS--"FOR THIS RELIEF MUCH THANKS"--THE "SOUTHLAND"--ONE OF THE GRAND THINGS OF THE WAR--WAR'S TERRIBLE WASTAGE--CIVILIZATION ONLY SKIN-DEEP--AUSTRALIA WILL ALWAYS BE PROUD
At last the Second Australian Division arrived in Gallipoli, and their advent meant that we of the First Australian Division would get a well-earned relief--and "for this relief much thanks."
We had been waiting for some time for our comrades to come and take over the trenches, and it was good for our tired eyes when we saw General Holmes and his 5th Infantry Brigade landing on Gallipoli.
We note that nearly all the new-comers had the name of their home town printed in indelible ink on the front of their hats. So it felt just like a railway journey all over New South Wales to see the brigade marching by. There we saw Bathurst, Maitland, Goulburn, Glen Innes, Wellington, Dubbo, Kiama, Kempsey, Moree, Cootamundra, Albury, Hay, Dungog, Tamworth, Nowra, Narrandera, Yass, and scores of other towns and villages scattered over the length and breadth of New South Wales. The next thing we noted was that all the new-comers looked big and strong and fit. They looked just like our First Australian Division when it marched out of Mena.
General Legge and the Headquarters Staff of the Second Division had a lot of luck getting to Gallipoli at all, for the _Southland_ was torpedoed with them on board. It is believed that an Austrian submarine did it. Our casualties were about twenty killed and fifteen drowned, Brigadier-General Linton dying after he was rescued from the water. It happened at about ten o'clock on the morning of September 2. The S.O.S. wireless signal was immediately sent off, and seven boats eventually steamed up to the rescue. The troops behaved magnificently, and were all put into the boats without much trouble. The firemen and stewards, however, got panicky, and three were shot before they sobered down.
But the _Southland_ did not sink. So the skipper called for volunteers to take the ship back to Lemnos, and fifty Australians took on the job. General Legge and Staff stayed on board also. One soldier had a stroke of luck. He was blown unhurt into the air, and by the time he came down the water was in the hold, and he landed softly and safely.
The behaviour of our troops upon the _Southland_ is to be numbered among the grand things of this war--one of the grandest. It has been likened to the _Birkenhead_.
When the Second Australian Division arrived how few of the old hands were left from the heroic band that landed on April 25! Just to show something of the wastage of war, here are some authentic figures. Of the 1,200 men in the 3rd Battalion who marched out of Kensington Racecourse, 100 were left. Eleven hundred were among the killed, wounded, missing and sick. Of the original sergeant's mess of the same battalion fifty-six left Kensington; five remained, and of these four were officers. The original G Company had 121 men--eight are left. Of the original 2nd Battalion, sixty remain out of 1,200. Of course, the majority of these are sick and wounded, and will rejoin their battalions. It is the immediate wastage that affects the army. That's why we want a continual stream of reinforcements.
Of the First Australian Division there remained on Anzac only the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, and the 3rd Infantry Brigade--plus, of course, the artillery and engineers. We were daily expecting to get our well-earned spell, and retire to the islands of the blessed in the Ægean Sea.
General Ryrie's brigade of Light Horsemen had their fair share of casualties. Of the original three regiments, Lieutenant-Colonel Cox's 6th, Lieutenant-Colonel Harris's 5th, and Lieutenant-Colonel Arnott's 7th, had 110 killed, 550 wounded and 1,050 sick with dysentery and enteric and other ills, or a total of 1,710 casualties. But the reinforcements kept us fairly up to strength.
Brigadier-General Ryrie, the brigade-major, Major Foster, and the staff captain, Captain Pollok, were all wounded. Of the fifty New South Wales officers of the brigade who landed on Gallipoli, the orderly-officer, Lieutenant Hogue, and the adjutant of the 6th Light Horse, Captain Somerville, were the only two who had not been killed, wounded or sick. A great many officers who had been sick and wounded, after a month or two in hospital returned to duty.
The landing of the 3rd Brigade, and the subsequent terrific three days' fighting on the heights of Gallipoli by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Brigades made Wolfe's exploit on the Heights of Abraham sound like a picnic. The thrilling capture of Lone Pine by the 1st Brigade was one of the finest exploits of the war, while the splendid defence of that stronghold by the 2nd Infantry Brigade and the 2nd Light Horse Brigade against the repeated counter-attacks of the Turks was worthy of all praise. The magnificent charge of the 2nd Infantry Brigade down at Helles made the British and French troops thrill with pride. The charge of the 1st Light Horse Brigade at Walker's Ridge was a glorious sacrifice. Australians have every reason always to be proud of the first fights of her First Division.
THE NEW WARFARE--ALTOGETHER UTILITARIAN--ITS HUMOUR AND PATHOS--THE LUCK OF THE GAME--GOD'S ACRE--AERIAL WARFARE--GALLANT DEEDS--GENERAL RYRIE
My dug-out overlooked Shell Green.
From the comparative safety of this retreat I could sit and watch the pomp and circumstance of war, its pageantry and pathos.
To be sure there was little that was picturesque in war as we saw it in Gallipoli. There was no martial music. The "thin red line" had given place to drab khaki. There were no fiery war-horses with tossing manes and champing bits, no dashing cavalrymen with flashing sabres. There were no gun teams, spanking bays and blacks, for we had to man-handle the guns up and down the hills into action. The nearest approach to a pageant was when the British fleet flew along the Ægean waterway, and fired some reverberating salvos at the Turkish batteries.
Ashore all was strictly utilitarian; no ceremony, no display. It was midsummer, so we curtailed our trousers and wore shorts. Our shirts were sleeveless. Putties and leggings were mostly discarded. When out of the trenches shirts were usually considered superfluous. Our backs and arms and legs were so sun-tanned that the brownest of the beach surfers at Bondi would envy our complexions. So when on fatigues or off duty it was a tatterdemalion army that marched to and fro over Shell Green.
Humour and pathos were strangely intermingled. We saw after a skirmish a score of fine young Australians laid out for burial, wounds gaping and clothes blood-clotted. Our hearts were wrung with anguish for mothers and sisters and wives back in the great South Land, ignorant as yet of their bereavement. A minute later the antics of some humorist would set the camp roaring with laughter. Anon some of our chaps would be wounded, and carried in on stretchers; then some bolting mules or a wrecked dug-out, or an explosion in the commissariat would set us laughing again. It is this saving grace of humour, as I have written before, that made life worth living in Gallipoli; but it also made the Gurkhas and the Tommies wonder what manner of men we were. The Englishmen regarded the Gallipoli campaign with great seriousness. The Indians appeared stoically indifferent. The Australians regard the whole show as a great adventure.
It's not hard to guess how Shell Green got its name. No gift for nomenclature is needed to find names for Hell Spit, Casualty Corner, The Bloody Angle, or Shell Green. The whole green is pitted with holes made by the enemy's shells. Some months ago these shells played havoc with our men. Some were killed as they lay in their dug-outs, others slaughtered on their way to and from the beach, some while in swimming. But we learned our lesson. We got to know the safety spots and the danger zones. Day after day the shells fell harmlessly, pock-marking the face of the earth, but doing us no ill. The Turks thought we had guns on Shell Green. So when our artillery got busy, the Turks blazed away, "searching" the area. But after four months' searching they failed to silence our guns. The remarks of our troopers as the shells landed were many and varied, but all were inspired by a quaint, unquenchable humour. When the quartermaster's store of the 4th Light Horse was wrecked, and four soldiers crawled uninjured from the débris, their mates called out, "Your luck's in. Get a ticket in Tatt.'s."
There are many graves on Shell Green--graves of Australian heroes. There's a little God's acre near the crest of the hill, overlooking the blue Ægean Sea. Sometimes towards evening the Turks tired of their fierce fusillade, and all seemed peaceful and quiet. The report of an odd sniper's rifle sounded more like the crack of a stock-whip. The sun sank in splendour on Samothrace, and the gloaming hour was sweet with meditation and thoughts of home. It darkened, and only the searchlights of the destroyers and the green streak of the hospital ship reminded us of war. We had our burials mostly in the evening. The padre came along, and a few of the dead soldier's friends straggled down from the trenches. The services were short but impressive. The shallow grave was filled in, and a rude cross marked the spot. Here's where we buried Colonel Harris, the loved leader of the 5th; Lieutenant Robson, the genial quartermaster of the 6th; Lieutenant Thorne, the brilliant Duntroon footballer, of the 7th; giant Gordon Flanagan, who was shot through the heart while asleep in his dug-out; Tresilian, the dare-devil sergeant, who revelled in battle; and many more gallant horsemen of the 2nd Brigade, who will never more hear the réveillé.
Shells and bullets were not the only things that flew over Shell Green. Aeroplanes were frequent visitors. Mostly they were French or British, but now and then a German Taube streaked overhead, dropped a bomb or two, or a shower of darts, and then bolted for safety back to Turkish territory. So far we had not witnessed a duel in the heavens. It's about the one thing we missed. Several times we saw our airmen give chase to the Germans, but the latter never waited for a bout. One day we thought we were going to see an aerial scrap, and like rabbits from their burrows, the whole troglodyte population of Shell Green emerged from their dug-outs to witness the spectacle. A Taube appeared over Suvla Bay, and a British airman took the air at Helles, and started in pursuit. The anti-aircraft guns of the Turks opened on our plane, and flecked the blue with a dozen shells, but scored no hit. Our gunners opened on the Taube, and made far better practice than the enemy, but could not bring the machine to earth. The two planes streaked across the sky like huge eagles, with outstretched wings. The Taube manoeuvred over the German guns, and our airman followed, despite the unfriendly greeting of the landlubbers below. We on Anzac focussed our binoculars and strained our eyes till the fliers passed beyond the hills. Finally we heard the Taube had justified the maxim, "Discretion is the better part of valour." Just as the aerial exhibition was over a couple of high explosives burst on Shell Green, and the "rabbits" bolted once more to their burrows.
It is the little incidents that relieve the monotony of war. I have seen some gallant deeds done here on Shell Green. One day a shell cut a telephone line between our observation post and a battery. It happened to be right on the most dangerous spot on the Green. But without a moment's hesitation a signaller sauntered out established the connexion, and sauntered back, despite the shrapnel. I saw Captain Evans, the little medical officer of the 7th, time and again streaking across the danger zone and tending men under fire. I have heard the cry, "Stretcher-bearers," and on the instant the devoted A.M.C. men have grabbed stretchers, and bolted to the rescue; this not once, but a hundred times. Some day I'll get a virgin vellum roll, a pen richly chased and jewelled, and in letters of gold I'll try to tell the people of Australia something of the heroism of these stretcher-bearers.
[Illustration: Brigadier-General G. Ryrie.]
It was on Shell Green that the genial General Ryrie was injured. If he had been more careful of his own skin he would have got off scot-free. But a shell had just landed amongst the "rabbits," and the cry of "Stretcher-bearers" told us that some of the boys had stopped a bit of shrapnel. Without a second's thought General Ryrie walked out on to the Green from headquarters with his brigade major and orderly officer.... "You know, Foster," he said to the former, "they could get us here too."
No sooner were the words out of his mouth than there was a crash. Shrapnel splinters and pellets zipped all round us. The cook's camp was a wreck. Pots and pans were perforated prettily. For a second I thought that no one was hit, for cook crawled out of the débris grinning. Then I heard the General in his cheery voice exclaim: "Holy Moses, they've got me where the chicken got the axe."
It was a close shave. The bullet entered the right side of the neck, penetrated a few inches, and stopped right on the sheath of the carotid artery. A fraction of an inch further and it would have been "Good night, nurse." ... That night the old brigadier was taken off to the hospital ship and on to Alexandria. Colonel Cox of our 6th Light Horse Regiment took temporary command of our brigade.
THE ANZAC V.C.'S
THE LUCK OF THE GAME--UNKNOWN HEROES--YOUNG JACKA--CAPTAIN SHOUT--LONE PINE--WILD COUNTER-ATTACKS--THE HEROIC SEVENTH--LIGHT HORSE THROSSELL--KEYZOR AND HAMILTON--MEN WHO NEVER WERE SEEN
As there passes before my mind's eye a kaleidoscopic picture of the wildly hilarious fighting of the early days of Anzac, and the rough and tumble jumble of Lone Pine, I can't help thinking of the luck of the game. "Were honour to bestow her crowns on those who had a right to them, the skull up on the battlefield would often wear a diadem."
So many unknown heroes lie buried on Anzac. So many passed the crucial test of supreme trial and with strong arm and true heart performed prodigies of valour--but no one saw them. As a rule there was hardly time to take stock of everything. Time and again did individual Australians do great deeds, but the historians will never know of it. They are mostly too modest to talk of it. And the officers who might have reported and recommended are dead.
Take that wonderful landing on the fateful day, April 25, when Australia made such a gloriously picturesque début. How many men of Maclagan's gallant 3rd Brigade in that never-to-be-forgotten charge up the heights won the greatest military honour that the King can bestow. But so many officers were picked off; so many men really deserved the V.C. The only solution seemed to be the conferring of the coveted medal on the whole brigade. But there was no precedent for this. So none of them got it.
Our first Australian V.C. was young Jacka of the 4th Brigade. He was young and not of the splendid physique of most of the Australians, but he was greased lightning with the bayonet. It all happened on Courtney's Post. The Turks had been sapping in towards the front trench, and after a shower of bombs they swarmed in and captured the trench. But Lance-corporal Jacka, posted behind the traverse in the fire trench, blocked their advance. An officer and a few men hurried up and volunteers were immediately ready to eject the intruders. Then while the officer and three men engaged in a bombing exchange with Abdul, Albert Jacka jumped from the front trench into the communication trench behind, ran round and took the Turks in the rear. He shot five of them and bayoneted two. The officer's party then charged and shot the four remaining Turks who tried to escape. They found Jacka leaning up against the side of the trench with flushed face, a bloody bayonet in the end of his rifle and an unlighted cigarette in his mouth.
The boys that took Lone Pine, who did that fine charge amid a shower of lead and shrapnel such as the war had not previously seen, got no V.C. for their valour. But the lads who held the hard-won post against all the subsequent counter-attacks did manage to secure a few. One of these was Captain Shout. But he never lived to wear the cross. For three long days and longer nights he participated in the furious hand-to-hand fighting in Lone Pine. Captain Sass and Lieutenant Howell Price both did great deeds in that thrilling time and each had several scalps to their credit. But Captain Shout with his bombing gang was ubiquitous. Laughing and cheering them on he time and again drove the Turks back, and then when he reached a point where the final sandbag barrier was to be erected, he tried to light three bombs at once and throw them amongst the crowding Turks. To throw a single bomb is a risky job. To throw three bombs simultaneously was a desperate expedient. One exploded prematurely, shattered both his hands, laid open his cheek and destroyed an eye, besides minor injuries. Conscious and still cheerful he was carried away. But he died shortly afterwards.
The heroic Seventh Battalion--victorious Victorians--participated in the great charge of the 2nd Australian Infantry Brigade down at Helles; the charge that made the French and English marvel at the dash of the young colonials. Then the Seventh managed to bag four V.C.'s in Lone Pine. The 2nd Light Horse Brigade and 2nd Infantry Brigade were holding the line against repeated counter-attacks, and it was then that Captain Fred Tubb, Lieutenant Symons, Corporal Dunstan and Corporal Burton won the V.C. On the night of August 8, while the British troops in the Suvla area were struggling to wrest the hills from the Turks, the Turks round Lone Pine were vainly endeavouring to recapture this stronghold from the Australians. On the right of the 7th Battalion things were particularly sultry, and early on the morning of the 9th some determined attacks by Abdul resulted in six of our officers and several men being killed and wounded. A bit of the front sap was lost, but Lieutenant Symons headed a charge, retook the sap, shot two of the Turks with his revolver and finally erected a barricade which defied all the attacks of the enemy. It was a bitter struggle and Abdul set fire to the overhead cover in the hope of driving back the Seventh. But the fire was extinguished and the position held for good.
It was give and take, attack and counter-attack all through August 9, that showed the qualities of pluck and determination which won the V.C. for Captain F. H. Tubb, Corporal Dunstan and Corporal Burton. Three times the enemy attacked with bombs, blew up our barricades, and swarmed into the trench, but each time Tubb and his companions returned to the assault, repulsed the invaders, rebuilt the barricades, and in spite of a shower of bombs held the post. Captain Tubb was wounded in the head and arm, but stuck to his job and baffled all Abdul's machinations.
Lance-corporal Keyzor was one of a band of heroes who did wonders in the hell-zone at the south-eastern corner of Lone Pine. It was a murder hole and after much slaughter we found that we could not hold the outer trench, while Abdul found that he also was unable to hold it. Finally it was abandoned as no man's land. But round about here there were lively times during August. As a bomb-thrower, Keyzor was pre-eminent. He was one of those who repeatedly caught the enemy's bombs and hurled them back before they could explode. It was here that Colonel Scobie was killed shortly afterwards, and here it was that for days and nights Keyzor moved amongst the showers of bombs with dead and dying all around, and threw bombs till every muscle ached and he could not lift his arm.
Young Hamilton was very young. But lots of these young Australians had old heads on their young shoulders. It was at Lone Pine where the 3rd Battalion was defending a section of the line against the repeated attacks of the Turks that young Hamilton won the coveted honour. He climbed on to the top of the parapet and with a few sandbags as a precarious shield against bombs and bullets he stayed there for five solid hours sniping merrily, potting off any stray Turks that showed up, and giving warning to the officer below each time the enemy started out to attack. There was plenty of shrapnel flying and the zip of bullets into the sandbags grew monotonous. But young Hamilton hung on.
It was away on the left of our line at Hill 60 that Lieutenant Throssell of the 10th Light Horse performed his great act of valour. There was one section of the enemy's line that obstinately defied the Australasian attack. At last the 3rd Light Horse Brigade received orders that the redoubt had to be taken. The brigadier sent the 10th Light Horse Regiment out to do the job. Just after midnight--August 28-29--the Westralians suddenly leaped on to the parapet and charged ahead. They were met with a hail of machine-gun and rifle fire and a shower of bombs, but nothing could stop those horseless horsemen. A brief mêlée on and in the Turkish trenches and the position was won. But holding it was a far more difficult matter. Lieutenant Throssell in charge of the digging party worked overtime putting the new line in a state of defence. Soon the Turks massed for the inevitable counter-attack, and Throssell, with Captain Fry and a troop of the Light Horse, repulsed the first charge. But just as dawn was breaking the Turks came again with a shower of bombs as a prelude. The grenades were smothered as they fell or thrown back again, but Captain Fry paid the final penalty. One bomb rolled over the parapet into the trench, and spluttered. The men yelled "Let it rip." But the only safe thing to do was to smother the bomb or heave it out. The gallant captain chose the latter alternative, but the bomb exploded and killed him. The holding of this threatened elbow of the line devolved upon Throssell, who rose manfully to the occasion. With his rifle he shot half a dozen Turks and with his cheery example he heartened his command, and Abdul attacked in vain. Twice indeed they swarmed in and the Light Horsemen had to give ground. But only a few yards and a fresh barricade was immediately erected. Early in the afternoon Throssell was wounded in the shoulder. But he kept on. At four o'clock he got another bullet in the neck. He kept on. Then just after nightfall relief came and his superior officer sent him back to the field hospital.
There were other Australians who gained the V.C.--Captain Hawker of the Flying Corps, Corporal William Cosgrove of the Royal Munster Fusiliers, who did such a fine performance down at Helles, and others. But other historians will tell of their deeds. Corporal Bassett of the New Zealand Signallers won his V.C. for a daring exploit--laying a telephone wire right on to Chunuk Bair in broad daylight under a heavy fire. But Maori-land will do him full justice.
The 2nd Light Horse Brigade had a sultry time in Lone Pine during August. After the big attack early in August they complained that for twenty-four hours they did nothing but bury dead Turks. The stench was shocking--sickening. There was no time for decent burial. Dozens of Turks were placed in the short communication trenches between the lines and covered up with earth, and the ends of the trench bagged up. Partly to kill the insufferable stench the boys smoked dozens and dozens of cigarettes.... Later on the boys had more than their share of the bombing. Sergeant Ryan won the D.C.M. But scores of the boys did big things that in lesser wars would have won distinction. Here they just were numbered with the unknown heroes. Every man on Lone Pine deserved special honour. If they had been Germans they would have been covered with iron crosses. As it is they are just satisfied that they were able to do their job. Anyhow, Australia won't forget Lone Pine.
THE FINAL PHASE
A LITTLE PESSIMISM--HANGING ON--THE BLIZZARD--FROST-BITE AGONIES--PATRIOTISM AND CRITICISM--TALK OF EVACUATION--"THE FOOL ENGLISH"--KITCHENER COMES--LAST DAYS--THE DIE-HARDS--THE GREAT EXODUS--FAREWELL TO ANZAC--A GLORIOUS FAILURE
Days dragged drearily on. Pessimism peeped into the trenches. Later in the solitude of the dug-out pessimism stayed an unwelcome guest, and would not be banished. All the glorious optimism of April, the confidence of May, June and July had gone, and the dogged determination of August, September and October was fast petering out. Abdul had fringed the dominating hills with barbed-wire and bayonets, and in very surety Australia was "up against it."
Not that any one dared talk pessimism. The croakers would have been squelched instanter. But deep down there was a feeling that unless heavy reinforcements arrived we could never break through to Constantinople. But at Anzac and Suvla the British hung on, desperately, heroically.
September's cold snap was forgotten in the unexpected warmth of October--just like an afterglow of summer. Then came the wintry winds of November--and the blizzard.... Of course we have snow in Australia. Kosciusko is all the year round covered with a soft white mantle. Down on Monaro it can be bleak and wintry. And the old Blue Mountains now and then enjoy a spell of sleet and snow.... But taking us by and large we are a warm-blooded race, we Australians. That is why we viewed the approach of winter with some concern. We knew Abdul could never, never, never break through our lines, and drive us--as Liman von Sanders had boasted--into the sea. But we were beginning to fear that we were a long, long way from Constantinople.
The blizzard swooped down on Anzac. Just like a shroud the white visitation settled on Gallipoli. It was cold as a Monaro gale. Soldiers crowded round the fires, and at night in the trenches it was terribly hard to keep awake. The cold was something to remember. We could keep our hands a bit warm by giving "five rounds rapid" and hugging the rifle barrel. Talk about cold feet; we had heard of "cold feet" when we were in Egypt. But this was the real thing.... How we invoked rich blessings on the heads of the Australian girls who had knitted us those warm socks! How we cursed the thieves along the lines of communication who pillaged and pilfered, while the men in the firing-line went begging! But through it all the indomitable cheerfulness of the Australian soldier would not be crushed. They laughed and joked when their teeth chattered, so that clear articulation was impossible.
To preserve some circulation they stamped their feet till exhaustion bade them cease. But the blizzard was inexorable. The cold permeated everywhere. We got just a glimpse of what the British army suffered in the Crimea.
Frost-bite was something to fear and dread. It was agonizing. Hundreds of men were carried down to the field hospitals and sent across to Lemnos. There were scores of amputations daily.... We had cursed the heat of July and the plague of flies, but now we prayed for summer again.
Now and then the English home papers blew in and we eagerly scanned the pages of the dailies for news of the war. We were astounded at the tone of the criticism hurled at the Government. So much of it was Party criticism, captious criticism. So little of it was helpful constructive criticism. In Parliament and in the Press the critics were "agin the Gov'ment" rather than against the Hun. We felt wonderfully proud of our Australian papers, the _Herald_ and _Telegraph_ and _Argus_. Also we were rather proud of the commendable restraint of our politicians. Not one word of captious criticism had there come from responsible Australian papers and people. We knew that mistakes had been made. We knew that it was a big gamble sending the fleet to hammer their way through without the aid of an army. But we did not slang-wang the Government. In the dark hour when everybody was blaming everybody there was only one message from Australia. Press and politicians struck the same note. It was merely a reiteration of the Prime Minister's message that the last man and the last shilling in Australia were now and always at the disposal of the Empire.
Then came talk of evacuation. It staggered us. In the House of Commons and in the Press columns were devoted to discussing the Dardanelles question and evacuation was freely recommended. The Australians rose in wrath and exclaimed, "_We're d----d if we'll evacuate. We are going to see this game through_." It was unthinkable that, having put our hands to the plough, we could turn back. The Turks and their German masters were kept well informed of the discussions at home and it made them tremendously cocky. England had practically admitted failure. The great Dardanelles expedition--the greatest crusade in the world--was an admitted fiasco. Then the Turks reasoned together. And they agreed that even "the fool English" would never talk so much about evacuation if it were even remotely likely. But it was worth an army corps to Abdul, and it did not make General Birdwood's task any easier.
Then Kitchener came. Many of us had seen him in Australia and South Africa. We had confidence that he would see the thing through. He landed on the beach and soon the word buzzed through the dug-outs, up the gully, and along the firing line. "K. of K." was on Anzac and the boys off duty congregated to give him a rousing welcome. He went round the Anzac defences with General Birdwood, saw everything and then started in to weigh the pros and cons of a knotty problem.
Ever since the day of landing, we had discussed in an offhand way the possibility of "getting out." Not that we had ever considered it remotely possible that we should ever turn back. But just as a strategical and tactical exercise, we had figured out how it might be done. And it seemed that the job of getting out was fraught with more potentialities of disaster than the job of getting in. The landing on April 25 was responsible for some slaughter. The evacuation, we reckoned, would be carnage. At a most moderate computation 25 per cent. of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps would have to be sacrificed to ensure the safe withdrawal of the remainder. But of course this was only a theoretical exercise. It was really outside the sphere of practical politics.
Then like a bomb came word that in very surety we were going to evacuate. In the House of Commons members had asked in an airy way why the troops were not withdrawn from Suvla and Anzac. To them, in their ignorance, it was merely a matter of embarking again and returning to Egypt or Salonica or France. So simple it seemed to those armchair strategists. They did not know that the beach at Anzac, our main depôts, and our headquarters were within a thousand yards of the main Turkish line; that the beach had been constantly shelled by "Beachy Bill" and other batteries for eight solid months on end.
However the powers that be had so ordained it and that was sufficient. The Australians had talked about "never retreating," but that was only a manifestation of the unconquerable spirit that animated them. They might talk, but they never yet disobeyed an order. It nearly broke their hearts to leave the spot where so many thousand gallant young Australians had found heroes' graves; but they knew how to obey orders. The only kick was for the honour of being the last to leave. So many wanted to be amongst the "die-hards."
It was to be a silent "get-away." Absolute secrecy was essential for its success. It sounds just like a wild bit of fiction. Just imagine the possibility of withdrawing an army of 90,000 men with artillery, stores, field hospitals, mules and horses, and all the vast impedimenta of war, right from under the nose of an active enemy, and all on a clear moonlight night. One single traitor could have queered the whole pitch. But British, Indians, New Zealanders and Australians were loyal to the core.
The final attack of the Turks on the right of our line had been repulsed by the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, though the enemy in determined fashion had pushed forward with sand-bags right to within a few yards of our trenches. There were half a dozen spots in the Anzac firing line where we and the Turks could hear each other talking; Quinn's Port, Lone Pine, The Neck, Apex, Turkish Despair, Chatham's Post. It would be fine fun sticking it out here while the army made its get-away. Men clamoured for the honour of being the last to leave....
It is the night of December 19; the fatal night which will see the evacuation of Anzac. Men talked cheerily, but thought hard. Had the Turks any idea of our projected departure? Two nights ago, a little after midnight, there was an unrehearsed incident. A fire broke out in a depôt near the North Beach. Soon the whole sky was reddened with the glare and the rugged outline of Anzac was brightly illuminated. Bully-beef and biscuits blazed merrily. Oil drums burst with terrific force. Then we wondered if the Turks would deduce anything from this. Would they guess it was a preliminary to the "get-away." It was hardly likely. The "fool English" would never burn the stores till the last minute. So the accidental fire did no harm. Maybe it did good. For during the past month the Anzacs had tried by all manner of tricks and subterfuges to induce Abdul to attack. But Abdul knew how costly a business it was attacking the Australians, and after a few abortive attempts he remained on the defensive....
Now all was normal. Down at Helles the British had, during the afternoon, made a big demonstration. The warships had joined in the fray and the bombardment of the Turkish lines was terrific. But on this last night there was nothing untoward happening. General Birdwood during the day had gone the rounds of the trenches and the boys yarned with him as of old. It was a good thing for us to have had a General like that--one who understood the gay devil-may-care Australian character. That's why the boys called him the "idol of Anzac."
Away to the northward at Suvla on the shoulder of Chocolate Hills the British divisions are getting ready to retire. On Hill 60, which saw so much sanguinary fighting, the stolid Indians are awaiting orders. This way a bit the New Zealand and Australian Division has started its first parties towards North Beach. On the right above Anzac and opposite Gaba Tepe the Australians were streaming away; all but the rearguard and the final "die-hards." Before the morning Anzac will have seen a great tragedy, or else the greatest bluff in history.... There is the usual desultory interchange of musketry at odd places along the line, now and then punctuated with the rattle of a maxim ... nothing abnormal. Down at Helles there is a fierce fusillade. This will help us....
Since dusk the first contingents had been steadily streaming down towards the North Beach and Anzac Cove. Quickly and silently they embarked in the waiting flotilla of small craft and streaked out to the transports. Like guardian angels the warships hovered around seeing to the security of the army. Up at Suvla we knew similar scenes were being enacted. Along the line the musketry played its usual accompaniment to the intermittent bombing. But the whole plan was working beautifully. The tension was gradually relaxing. There would be no 20 per cent. casualties as the pessimists foretold. Already from Suvla and Anzac over 60,000 soldiers had re-embarked without a single casualty.
Now and then there was a round of shrapnel sent by Beachy Bill on to the southern depôt at Brighton Beach. This clearly showed that the enemy suspected nothing. Yet it is bright moonlight.... It is midnight, and nearly all the men have embarked save the thin khaki line of "die-hards" in the trenches. An odd bomb or two is thrown by the Turks. The "die-hards" with insolent imperturbability heave a few bombs back and invite Abdul to come on.
If Abdul had entered our trenches then he would have found only a skeleton army waiting to fight a forlorn hope rearguard action. But all along the trenches he would have found other things. Cigarettes and jam and tobacco; all sorts of presents and Christmas boxes. Scores of the boys before leaving wrote little farewell messages to the Turks. Typical examples were these:--"Au revoir, Abdul. See you later on"; "Good-bye, Mahomet. Better luck next time"; "Abdul, you're a good clean fighter and we bear you no ill-will"; "Merry Christmas, Abdul; you're a good sport anyhow, but the Hun is a fair cow"; "So long, Abdul." And having told Abdul what he thought of him, the irresponsible Australian sauntered down to the beach and embarked! But many a silent tear was shed for the pals they had left behind, the quiet dead sleeping on Gallipoli....
It didn't seem quite right to clear out and leave Australia's dead behind. Some of the boys voiced the thought of many, "Tread softly, boys, and don't let them hear us deserting them." Some of the padres planted wattle round about the graves on Shell Green and Shrapnel Valley and Hell Spit and Brown's Dip....
By half-past one all were away but the "die-hards." Then from the Apex, after a final volley, streaked the first batch of the skeleton rearguard. There is a breach in the brave Anzac line at last. But Abdul does not know it yet. Soon the dare-devils at Quinn's Post heave a few bombs, then silently slink back, down the precipitous hill-side, and along the gully to the beach. From Courtney's and the Neck and the Pimple and Ryrie's Post and Chatham's all along the line came the "die-hards," full lick to the beach. But to their unutterable surprise there is no attack. They are not followed. The trenches that for eight long months defied the Turkish attacks are now open, not a solitary soldier left. But Abdul does not know it. There is still an intermittent fire from the Turkish trenches. They think our silence is some trick....
At half-past three on the morning of December 20 there was a burst of red flame and a roar like distant thunder. This was repeated shortly afterwards, and our two big mines on the Neck blew up. It was our last slap at the Turk. We cannot say what harm it did, but thinking the explosions were a prelude to attack the Turkish line all round Anzac burst into spiteful protest. There was a wild fusillade at our empty trenches, and on the transports the Australians smiled grimly. Shortly afterwards the Light Horsemen on the extreme right--Ryrie's lucky Second Brigade rearguard--entered the waiting cutters on Brighton Beach. Then the stores--such as we could not take away--burst into flame. Only two men were wounded.
Before dawn word came that the whole force had been safely taken off, together with many of the mules and horses and guns which it was thought would have to be abandoned. At dawn the Turkish batteries opened a wild bombardment of our trenches, all along the line. Marvellous to relate the enemy had not yet ascertained what had happened. But the silence soon told them the truth. Then they charged in irregular lines over the skyline at our empty trenches. The warships fired a few salvoes at the enemy swarming over the hills, and they hurriedly took cover in our old trenches. These were the last shots fired over Anzac at the Turks. Then the flotilla turned its back on Gallipoli and swung slowly and sadly westward.
So ended the great "get-away"; a feat quite unparalleled in the annals of war. Historians will pay tribute to Sir Charles Munro and the Fleet. We only take our hats off to General Birdwood and his staff and the staffs of the Australasian divisions. But deep down we know the wonderful work our navy did during the eight months of the Gallipoli campaign. The army may make mistakes, but the navy is all right.
As we swing off our last thought is not concerned with the bitterness of defeat. We think of our comrades quietly sleeping on Anzac. They gave their lives gladly, proudly, for Australia and the Empire. They showed the world that Australians could live and fight and die like Britishers. There are many sad hearts on the transports to-night. And there are very many breaking hearts back in dear old Australia. But old England has showered so many good gifts on her Colonies. The Colonies will not grudge this sacrifice for Empire.
Maybe our feelings are best expressed in the words of "Argent," written at the end of the most glorious failure in history:--
Ah, well! we're gone! We're out of it now. We've something else to do. But we all look back from the transport deck to the land-line far and blue: Shore and valley are faded; fading are cliff and hill; The land-line we called "Anzac" ... and we'll call it "Anzac" still!
This last six months, I reckon, 'll be most of my life to me: Trenches, and shells, and snipers, and the morning light on the sea, Thirst in the broiling mid-day, shouts and gasping cries, Big guns' talk from the water, and ... flies, flies, flies, flies, flies!
And all of our trouble wasted! all of it gone for nix! Still ... we kept our end up--and some of the story sticks. Fifty years on in Sydney they'll talk of our first big fight, And even in little old, blind old England possibly some one might.
But, seeing we had to clear, for we couldn't get on no more, I wish that, instead of last night, it had been the night before. Yesterday poor Jim stopped one. Three of us buried Jim-- I know a woman in Sydney that thought the world of him.
She was his mother. I'll tell her--broken with grief and pride-- "Mother" was Jim's last whisper. That was all. And died. Brightest and bravest and best of us all--none could help but to love him-- And now ... he lies there under the hill, with a wooden cross above him.
That's where it gets me twisted. The rest of it I don't mind, But it don't seem right for me to be off, and to leave old Jim behind. Jim, just quietly sleeping; and hundreds and thousands more; For graves and crosses are mighty thick from Quinn's Post down to the shore!
Better there than in France, though, with the Germans' dirty work: I reckon the Turk respects us, as we respect the Turk; Abdul's a good, clean fighter--we've fought him, and we know-- And we've left him a letter behind us to tell him we found him so.
Not just to say, precisely, "Good-bye," but "_Au revoir_"! Somewhere or other we'll meet again, before the end of the war! But I hope it'll be in a wider place, with a lot more room on the map, And the airmen over the fight that day'll see a bit of a scrap!
Meanwhile, here's health to the Navy, that took us there, and away; Lord! they're miracle-workers--and fresh ones every day! My word! those Mids in the cutters! aren't they properly keen! Don't ever say England's rotten--or not to _us_, who've _seen_!
Well! we're gone. We're out of it all! We've somewhere else to fight. And we strain our eyes from the transport deck, but "Anzac" is out of sight! Valley and shore are vanished; vanished are cliff and hill; And we'll never go back to "Anzac" ... _But I think that some of us will!_
[By L. H. ALLEN, in the _Sydney Morning Herald_.]
Winter is here, and in the setting sun York's giant bluff is kindled with the ray That smites his gnarléd sides of red and dun: And the spired obelisk that points the way Where heroes looked, the first of English blood To break the spell of Silence with a cry Startling the ancient sleep in prophecy Of you, my people of the Lion-brood.
Does his old vision watch that alien hill, Embrowned and bleak, where strain upon the height, Amid sharp silences that burn and chill, Those heroes' sons, set in sterner fight Than primeval war with solitude? Lo now, the sullen cliff outjets in smoke. And life is groaning death, blooded and broke! So fell ye, brothers of the Lion-brood.
I weep the dead; they are no more, no more! Oh, with what pain and rapture came to me Full birth of love for dazzling-sanded shore, For heaven of sapphire, and for scented tree! Keen-eyed and all desire I feel my mood Still fruitless, waiting gust of quickening breath-- And lo, on darkened wing the wind of death Summoned austere the soul to nationhood.
Where cornfields smile in golden-fruited peace There stalk the spirits of heroes firmly-thewed As he that sailed their path to win the Fleece For gods that still enchant our solitude. I weep the dead; they are no more, no more! Their sons that gather in the teeming grain Walk sadlier than the men of hill and plain, Themselves are harvest to the wrath of war.
I weep the dead; they are no more, no more! When dusk descends on city and on plain, Dim lights will shine from window and from door, And some will guard the vigil of dull pain, Yet, in the city or in solitude, There is a burden in the starry air, An oversong that cries, "The life is fair That made its triumph nobler with its blood."
If English oaks should fret with shade their tomb, Let them have burial here; for one would say "I shall sleep soft if some once haunted room, Keep token of me when I take my way." And one again, "The boon of quietude Is sweet if that old corner of the stream Where last I saw the creepered window gleam Keep memory of my days of lustihood."
Some blossoming orchard-plot, some fencéd field, Some placid strip of furrow-stainéd earth, Or some grey coil of cottage smoke shall yield Tribute to them that brought their kin to birth. And this, in city or in lonely wood, Shall be the guerdon of the death they died, The cry of Folk made one in pangs of pride-- "They fell, not faithless to the Lion-brood."
 Mount York, in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, where stands a monument erected in memory of three intrepid Australian explorers: Blaxland, Lawson, and Wentworth.
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