Complete Anzac Gallipoli War Diary – By T.E.DraneClick here to read original introduction
Sapper Thomas Edward Drane (Service No.56) was one of the first men to enlist at the beginning of WW1. While enlisted with the 1st Field Company Engineers (1FCE) he compiled a personal diary of his wartime experiences. His diary describes the anticipation and adventure in the days of training leading up to battle. He writes of the time spent in Sydney with new friends and the cheering crowds when departing. And the times he enjoyed with his mates, exploring Egypt’s natural wonders and culture when relieved from the rigours of wartime training.
Then there is the harsh reality of the Gallipoli landing which has been so firmly entrenched in Australia’s history. To read in his own words the living hell of those first moments and ensuing days from the perspective of the 1st Field Company Engineers of NSW is to gain an insight into what many men had endured for ‘honour and love of the country that reared them’.
Now in the Centenary year of the Gallipoli landing, the personal account contained in T.E.Drane’s diary is now more important than ever before. It vividly highlights the role played by the 1st Field Company Engineers and contributes to the recognition of this NSW unit for future generations.
August 4th 1914
After the war broke out, I was one day reading the news and I saw where they wanted volunteers in Australia for an Expeditionary Force that was to be formed in Sydney.
I studied up my chance for weeks, and came to the conclusion that this would be a long war, so on the 16th of August I, along with my pal H. Geddes, volunteered for service abroad or home.
I was passed by the Medical Doctor of Parkes as fit, so I had my desire fulfilled. I was to leave Forbes on the 17th but suddenly changed my mind, and applied for my railway warrant that day to take me down to Sydney.
I along with a fellow by the name of Fred Simpkins, an Englishman, left Forbes by the mail that night without saying goodbye to anyone.
August 18th 1914
Arrived in Sydney all excited. We had to report to Victoria Barracks to Colonel Antill. We got to the barracks about 9.30 a.m. and saw him. He put me into the Engineers, and Simpkins into the infantry. It was my trade that made him put me in the Engineers.
I then went to Moore Park where the Engineers were to be camped. I reported there, and was given my attestation papers, also the same day I was sworn in by Lieut. Biden. I was a full-fledged soldier of the King, without a uniform. But that did not matter. I was given my straw mattress along with some blankets to sleep on that night, and I had also to buy myself a plate, pannikin, knife & fork, so that I could have a little food. The same day H. Geddes came into the camp, he had also been put into the Engineers. By the way we had to sleep in a place they called the sand shed, where all the ropes and various tackle was kept belonging to the Australian Engineers, who by the way were a permanent company who had to break us in to the mysteries of drill and various other details that we would have to go through before we would become proper soldiers.
19th August 1914
By this time we had nearly a full company, and we had to be put out in squads for drill under an N.C.O. We had nothing but form fours, left turn etc. all the blooming day, and by four in the afternoon we were ready to knock off for the day. That was my fist day’s work under the Australian Military and I often wondered how it would all finish up, only to find out very much later. That night we spent in Sydney, and managed to get back to our new home before lights out, which went at 10 o’clock.
20th August 1914
Another days drill in front of us again. The C.O. is going to pick some men out to be Non Commissioned Officers for our company. We were formed into Sections today, and I was put into No. 2 Section under Lieut. Dyer, and also give our regimental No. Mine is 53. H. Geddes 96, and a new chum I have made since being in camp 81. We are to have our uniforms next week so we will be some kid when we wear it for the first time. I just feel ready for my bed so will just pop off.
21st August 1914
The same again, roused up at six by the bugler playing some hideous noise on his bugle, which I learn is Reveille. Fall in at six .30 am for exercise before breakfast, then after that fall in again at 9 o’clock for more squad drill. 10.30 we had a smoko for a quarter of an hour, while having this rest, our tents arrive, so we have to learn how to put up tents, in quick time and take them down again. At last we are dismissed for the day, so we hurried up, got washed, and slipped into town again.
22nd August 1914
We are to pitch our tents up today, and will be allotted so many in a tent, under one N.C.O. I have been put in B1 Tent with quite a nice crowd of boys and we are quite happy in our little canvas house. They picked out the drivers, and now we are something like a company, we are getting licked into shape by degrees. Dinnertime again time passes very quickly now that we have plenty to occupy our time. Fall in again just heard we are to get our equipment and uniform. They are going up by sections ours will be second. 3.30. Just received my equipment. Rifle, bayonet, belt, pouches, boots, hat and everything that a man wants. I along with the others are going to swank into Town tonight, and there is such a rush to get into the uniform that you do not know which is which. It was not so bad until it came to putting on the putties. I had mine wrong side out first time, then the second time I got mixed up with the tent pole, so I determined to go out side and put them on. There must have been more than a dozen trying to put on these Putties, and making some awful messes of them. Anyhow I managed to fix mine on to my liking, and I knew we would get better at the game. What swanks we were that night in the city, we though that we were just it. When we got back to Camp we did not like the idea of pulling off these blooming putties but it had to be done. There we were pulling yards and yards of these things off our legs. I can tell you there was some choice talk going on. This was our first night under canvas, and my tent mates were:
- Lance Corporal Hudson
- Sapper Makinson
- Sapper Oliver
- Sapper Page
- Sapper Cook
- Sapper Mansfield
- Sapper Walke
So we were a nice little crowd. Anyhow, we had to sleep with our feet to the pole, and I can tell you we often got mixed up, more so with Page because he was very tall, and his long legs used to invade Hudson’s territory.
23rd August 1914
There goes that Bugle, and I am Mess orderly today. That is – look after the Boys tucker. I get out of all the drill, but then I have to feed the brutes, and they want some feeding, anyhow, they have chops for breakfast, stew for dinner, and jam for tea. I am a general slavery for I have to wash dishes, pots, dixies, etc. and it is no good. At the present time you would think I was a chimney sweep by my face for it is a black as the ace of spades, with cleaning the dirty black dixies, anyhow I will soon have my turn over, and it does not come every day.
24th August 1914
We are to have quite a change today for we are to learn the various knots that are used in building bridges etc. I won’t detail them, but I can tell you we had a very easy day of it. Now this is what we had to do every day. Drill squad. Company drill. Rifle exercise. Knotting. Trench digging. By the way we are to go out to Centennial Park for that and Bridge building. Musketry. Guards drill. Bayonet exercise. So I do not intend to write any more of these things because it will only tire anyone to keep on reading about them.
We are real soldiers at last we have had route marches with full equipment on, along with our G.S. Waggons, Tool Carts, etc. and I can tell you we looked fine. This month has been practically like the last, but very day brings us nearer to getting away from Sydney and to the war which what we joined up for. We have had some firing out of our Rifles at Botany Bay so as to get used to our Rifles, and I can tell you, I had a very sore shoulder for a while for they are not toys.
I have been on guard two or three times, which is another change from the ordinary drill. We get plenty of visitors to the camp, and we have a piano in the drill hall where we have dances, and sing songs a treat. Plenty of girls to take home if we feel that way inclined, and most of us do. Also we get plenty of lectures by the C.O. Lieut-Col. Elliott, but they are very dry at times. Our company is full strength ready for going any time. There is a Major MC call. Capt. Collette, Lieut. Mather of No.1 Section, Lieut. Dyer of No. 2, Lieut. Huntley of No. 3 and Lieut. Biden of No. 4. Each section has two tool carts, along with a G.S Waggon, which is for general baggage, etc., one water cart, and when we get away from here, wherever we go, we are to get Pontoons for bridging purposes, so you see we have plenty to look after. I will now pass on to Oct the 15th for it is a red-letter day.
October 15th 1914
We had a full parade today to be informed that we are to be ready to leave any time. This is the second time we have been told this. Once before we had an ordinance party down to the troopship, but the order was cancelled by the military people. Anyhow to proceed with my diary. All leave would be stopped after Friday the 16th, so it looked like being true this time.
Oct 16th 1914
We are to have general leave after two o’clock, this being a final leave in Sydney, and I can tell you we made the best of it. We received our pay then away we went to enjoy ourselves in Sydney, for we did not know when we would be there again after we left it. I arrived back in camp about 11.30pm, after saying Good Bye to all my friends in Sydney.
Oct 17th 1914
No leave today, and what a miserable day it is, raining all the time. We are ready to go, our kit bags, horses and waggons have gone and now we are only waiting for our orders to leave. We have decided to have a farewell feed in our tent, so we got these rabbits with two loaves of bread, and we made a very good meal, by this time it would be 2.30pm and the friends of the boys were coming to the drill hall to say good bye. The rain is still coming down as bad as ever, so you can form some idea how things were in camp, mud everywhere. I remember seeing my pal Syd Cook with his girl, saying good bye to her, and we time how long it took him to say it, only three hours, poor fellow how he must have felt the parting. We had no girls to say good bye to, so we just went into the drill hall to dance, and hear the singing which by the way was not up to much, for most of the boys were feeling a little bit down in the dumps now that the time for going away was near.
Anyhow the day finished up with plenty of fun, for some how or other there was plenty of beer in the tents. At last the lights are out, so we can rest content until tomorrow.
Sunday Oct 18th 1914
I can tell you some of us did not sleep too well last night, for we were excited with the thoughts of going away from old Sydney. We were awakened about 5.00am and we had to clean up the tents, pass in our blankets to the Quarter Master, by the time this was done it was near our breakfast. We fell in again about 6.45am with all our equipment and rifles ready to proceed to the Transport. I remember having a good look at the old camp once again, and I can tell you most us were feeling a little sorry at leaving. But that soon passed away when we started to march away.
We then got into the special trams which were waiting at the entrance to Moore Park, and all the way down to Woolloomooloo Bay we were singing ‘Old Soldiers Never Die’. There was a big crowd of people at the Quay when we got there, but the police kept them back, it was hard luck for some of the boys because they would have liked to have seen the last of their mothers, sweethearts before they embarked. We then got on to the ferries that were waiting and after some delay (which was filled in by sending kisses and waving handkerchiefs to the girls) we left the Quay and made for our transport the SS Afric A19. We embarked on her and were told to go down below to the Mess Tables until we were dismissed. After a long time we were dismissed, and we were then free to go about the ship. It was raining again and you never saw a more miserable day. Some of the ferry boats came very near to us, and gave us a ‘Cock a Doodle Doo’, and the people tried to cheer us up a little, what with the weather, and other little things we felt fairly miserable.
We are just sailing now away towards the heads, at last we are on our way to some unknown destination, what is in store of us we don’t know, but we are happy now. The boys are all up the rigging, or the washhouses, in fact every-where so that they could get a last look at Sydney. Just as we reached South Head some band was giving us a farewell tune just to cheer us up. Then we struck the entrance to the sea, between the Heads, and it was a little rough, and it was very funny to see the boys coming down the rigging, off the washhouses like a lot of sick rats. It was the first time some of them had ever left Sydney Heads, and they were sick, no mistake. Now I am going to have my tea, then find out the cosy little places on this ship. By the way we Engineers are right up forward along with the Army Service Corps, the 1st Battalion Infantry is down aft. You see I am getting quite a seafaring man now. I do not intend to keep up my diary on board for nearly every day is the same, so I will let it rest until some future date.
We are quite a happy family on this ship, and when I look over the side my thoughts go back to sunny New South. There are nothing but transports – 42, all in three lines, and we have an escort of HMS Minotaur, HMS Sydney, a Japanese Cruiser and a Russian. We had a good time waiting at Albany for the New Zealanders and we had a route march which we enjoyed fine. You will notice I have not put any dates down because I did not trouble to take notice. We called at Colombo, but did not get off, next Suez, and then we went up the canal, which is very interesting. You can see there are plenty of troops on the Canal. Indian and British. They sang out, and asked where we came from and where we were going. We arrived at Port Said, which by the look at first glance is not up to much. We were not allowed off the ship, but had to be content, and look at the place from a distance. This is the place where you see the milkman bringing around the cow and milking it while you wait. By this time, which I forgot to mention, we are bound for Cairo, Egypt and we are a little disappointed for we were thinking we might go to France or England.
By the way I forgot to mention Nov the 9th, a red-letter day in Australian history. It was the day HMS Sydney sank the German ship the Emden. I remember the Sydney racing away that morning, and we wondered what was in the wind, for she was going at top speed. We soon received word that the Sydney had sunk the Emden near the Cocos Islands, which was only 40 miles away from us. What a cheer was given when the news was given to us, and what reception the Sydney got when she caught up to us at Colombo. I will never forget it, for if the German Commander had only known how many troopships were near him, it is a thousand to one he would have had a try to sink some of us. It was about the end of November when we left Port Said, for Alexandria in Egypt, which was to be our destination. We arrived at Alexandria and we had to disembark everything, and we arrived in Cairo on the 3rd of Dec as near as I can tell and it was raining in Cairo when we arrived there.
We are quite interested with the first glance at Cairo for it seems so strange to the natives, and the number of foreign people, and the women wearing the masks & veils over their face. What I noticed in the native women was their lovely eyes, but for their mouths well I could not see them. We were then marched to the trams (which are on the European style) where we then rode away to our camp, which we learned was near the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx.
We had a good look for them, and we seemed to be a long while in reaching them, because we could see them so far away. But eventually we stopped and had to get out and march a little before we came to our camp. My first impression of it was not much. We were rather more fortunate than the Second Field Company for they arrived a few days before us and had to pitch our tents for us, which for us was very nice. We received a ration of biscuits and Bully Beef for our dinner with a promise of a hot tea, which we are still getting. But it was no use growling for everything was upside down with ease so we had to make the best of it.
We had to fall to and get the Baggage from all the trams, and by the time this was done it was near dark, and we were tired too. We drew blankets and we were told off to tents, our section was again very lucky for we were all put in one big sepoy tent. I just dug the sand out a little, pulled the blankets over me, and said good night, I was very tired indeed and so were the rest of the boys.
Dec 14th 1914
More work rearranging the tents so that we can put the horses between the two lines, and the waggons at the end. We are to have a mess room built by the natives. Now it is beginning to look a little bit more like a camp for the Infantry are putting up their tents and the Artillery. It will look like a huge white canvas city. The natives are making roads all over the place and also making two square tanks for our water supply. We filled the day in nicely and are now free to have a look around the camp, but can’t go into Cairo yet. We had a look at the Pyramids but decided to wait until Sunday before climbing up to the top and going inside. The Army Service have arrived so there is a chance of decent food tomorrow for we depend on them for our rations.
Dec 15th 1914
Now we are getting some read hard work to do, carry stones from the hills around to make boundary lines between the road and our camp, and the Infantry are on the same game, we also made a place for our cooks to cook their celebrated stews. The Egyptian Government is allowing 6′ a day for each man as an extra allowance being the army of occupation, it will make a difference to us. I have just witnessed a tribe of natives paying their tribute to their God the Sun. They looked very funny kneeling and bobbing up and down like a Jack in a box, then they would mutter something to themselves, with their hands up in the air, then nearly knock their brains out with bowing to the sun. What funny customs they have, they are just like they used to be in the days of Israel. You see a native farmer ploughing with a single furrow plough with an oxen and an ass pulling it. They never have two animals alike in a plough. They are great believers in irrigation, but the way they do it, there are canals run off the Nile and that is how they get the water, but now comes their idea of irrigation. They have a long pole fixed up with a cross piece fixed on to that with a big stone at one end, and a bucket at the other. What they do is to lift up the stone, and let the stone go, and it pulls up the bucket, then they empty into a kind of trench were the water runs on the land. I will try to illustrate what I mean.
Now you can see what I mean. Now again is their primitive way of grinding corn. They have various ways, but I can only speak of two ways that I saw. One is were a native gets two large round pieces of stone, and by putting the corn between the two, and turning the top stone around he grinds his corn. The other way is on a much larger scale. You see a large round place with a long pole sticking out with a blind folded bullock fastened to it. This bullock has to turn the pole around and around, as he goes around the pole, which I should say is attached to a grinder, turns the grinder as he puts in his corn between the two, and he seems to get a fairly good result from his method. The reason they blind-fold the bullock is so that he does not get dizzy or sick with going around the mulberry bush. Then again you never see a native man carrying sugar canes or anything. No, he makes his dear little wife do that. You will see a dirty woman with her child, and a big load of sugar cane, or straw on her head, while her husband walks on smoking his dirty cigarette. The children you see are a filthy looking crowd (of course I am speaking of the lower class of natives, for up to date I have had no chance to study the Egyptians). You will see the flies in crowds in the kiddie’s eyes, they never think of knocking them away. I will leave it over until next week, and then I will be able to give you my first impression of Cairo.
My First good look at Cairo. We got leave from camp from 1 o’clock until ten at night, but I might say that we have no intentions being back by that time, oh no, we want to explore this great eastern city we have heard so much about at one time or another. We left Camp at 1.30pm, and we had to walk along Cambeis Rd to the tram. We had quite a time trying to get on for they were simply rushed by the boys. We gave the tram up for they were even on the very top of it, so we hired a carriage in pair, four of us. Four other fellows from one of the Battalions were in another one, and I may say there is no speed limit in Cairo.
We were going along nicely, when the other fellows challenged us to a race into Cairo. We took them up, and away we went. Well the rule of the road in Egypt is to keep to your right, quite the opposite to home. Well one of the other boys thought he could drive better than the Egyptian driver, so he gets the reins, and drives away. All went well until he saw another carriage coming, what does he do but drive over to the left side of the road instead of keeping on his right. The result was funny, as he turned to go the right, the other fellow did the same, before you knew what was going to happen, he had taken one of the other drivers wheels off, what a mess, but we could not help but laugh at the Egyptian picking himself up, and gesticulating for all he was worth. It was no use we did not stop – away we went over the Kasr-el-Nil Bridge into Cairo.
We pulled up at a place called Opera Square right in the centre of the city. The first thing we had to do was change our money into Egyptian coinage. We should have got 100 piastres for a pound, but they would only give us 95, so we were done a shilling right of the reel. Of course we were new chums, and with getting 95 piastres of our pound we thought we were all right. Of course we found out these things after wards when we had paid for our experience. There is 5 piastres to a shilling so will have an idea how many we should have received for our pound.
There are 20 piastre and 50 piastre pieces, which are nearly like an English 5/- piece. Anyhow we got over that performance, and now for a drink of some kind for it was a hot day. We looked around and saw any amount of little tables outside most of the hostels, but we did not like the look of these drinks which were mostly French wines, and we decided to go into the Grand Continental Hotel which by the way is one of the swell hotels of Cairo. We went inside, and Cookie asked for four English beers. They were brought to us, and he asked how much – 10 piastres. 2/-, he nearly had a fit, we drank the beer, which was more like coloured water than anything, so that made us all turn hesitaters, and we decided to take soft drinks with ice cream in future.
We have a good look around the town, visited the Post Office for stamps, and I think we got every kind that we could. Then we had a look at the markets, you never saw such a cosmopolitan crowd in all your life. There were French Arabs, Turks, Indians, Dagoes and every nation under the sun represented here. The first thing we had to buy was a little swagger cane, and we were again robbed by paying 1/- for a stick that only cost 1/2, poor innocent soldiers. After getting the stick we were feeling a little bit hungry and we started to look out for a place to get a good feed. We eventually came to a fine big French place so we said we would try this one. In we marched, and the first thing that I saw was again the number of small tables with women and men drinking this wine, and all speaking French, just like a lot of monkeys in a zoo. I told my pal I was going to learn the French then I could understand their lingo. We had to go up stairs to get dinner, so we sat down, in comes a black waitress, and the menu was in French. We had to point to the various things we wanted. I think we had fish soup, chicken & sweets and also some of the French wines. We called for our bill, and there another surprise was in store for us. I looked at mine, and great was my surprise to find it was 25 Piastres 5/-. They were all alike, more swindling, but still another lesson.
I was vexed at being charged so much, so were the others. I was just going through the door into the street, when a young native kid thought I must have wanted my boots cleaning, for before I realised what he was doing he had started to clean my boots. I let him finish then asked him how much, he said 5 piastres, Good Lord, I said to my pal, can’t they speak here under a 1/-, anyhow I paid him, and then we met some of the Lancashire Fusiliers from home, so I asked him how much we should pay for having boots cleaned. He said 2 1/7, fancy being done again, if I could have got hold of him I would have wrung his neck, for I had to stand so much kid from my pals, but I was determined that I would not be done again. We marched up the street to the park in Opera Square when a native came up wanting to sell us some peanuts, and he had them all piled up on some kind of thing. No doubt they looked very unwholesome, so thought Cookie for he gave the pile a crack with his stick and knocked them in all directions much to the dismay of the native crowd, then he cracked the native across the seat with his cane. Oh what a rumpus there was, we cleared laughing at the incident. Next we bailed up a cabby to take us to the Eastern Bazaar, and I will never forget it, being my first visit to any of these rotten Eastern places. We drove down the rue Wagh el Birket, that is the name of the street in Ezbekiyeh which street by the way is full of Immoral women, we drove right through that without a stop right into the Bazaar, and what a smell I can sometimes smell it yet. There you see all the thieves and rogues in the world. Can Can stops, drug shop, everything that is not good for you. I might say that curiosity took us into a Can Can place, which by the way is a native dance, enough said. I along with the others came out disgusted with the whole concert.
No sooner are you in the street again before you are molested by women of all kinds & creeds. I was just about getting fed up with this sort of thing so I proposed another feed in the town. We had to walk back and after a struggle we managed to reach the centre of the town, and I was not sorry for I had seen more in ten minutes in the Wassa as it is known by then, for the rest of my life put together. The dirty filthy mob of cattle they are that live there. Honestly, it is the most immoral place ever I was in. It is my first visit and the last. We had to have a drink to wash the dust & dirt out of our mouths before we had something to eat. We did not go to the flash French place again, we went to the Café De La Paix, Opera Square.
The manager was a Frenchman but thank the Lord he could speak English fairly well. His name was George Yokat and a very nice fellow he was because he shouted drinks. Anyhow we had a feed on what we had been dished. Steak & chips with tea & bread & butter – you will notice I underlined butter, the worst kind I have ever tasted. But never the less we had a good feed and it was cheap only 1/-.
By this time it is getting on, by the clock it says 10.30pm and we should have been in camp, but what do we care we have missed the last tram to the Pyramids. We will have to take a cab or taxi for we can’t walk eight miles into camp, which is all that distance away. Anyhow we saw a taxi, and asked him how much he would take us to the Mena Camp. He said 5/- each, that meant £1 for the four of us, we by this time never gave what they asked, so we got him down to 3/- each, which I reckoned was enough for the trip. We had a very quick ride home, but not so exciting as when we came into town. We passed by the Guard by going a long way out of our ordinary way but we managed to get to bed safe and sound by 11.30pm after a very busy day, and my first impression of Cairo was not much, but I intend to go in during the week again. I really want to see the upper classes how they behave. I could tell you more about the Wassa but it is better out of anyone’s diary. Tomorrow being Sunday we intend to visit the Pyramids & Sphinx, also climb the top and go inside after Church Parade which we have every Sunday on the side of the hill.
Sunday Dec 1914
We have just had Church service on the hill near the camp so we are dismissed for the day. I am taking it easy until dinnertime, just reading to kill time. Some of the boys have gone to the Mena Hotel baths for a swim, but by the time they got back they will want another, for the sand is coming in all directions, it gets in your eyes, ears, mouth and you are chewing it a treat. There goes the cookhouse, now for our dinner. It’s not bad today, roast beef and vegetables with plum pudding to follow, that is the extra sixpence we are allowed. Now we have had a smoke we are ready for our little expedition to the great wonders of the world.
We left camp 2pm and no sooner were we away than we had about twenty black guides around us, to explain and show us the wonderful things in and out of the Pyramids. We engaged one for about 5/-, and he led the way with his great big strides across the sand. It took us all our time to keep up with him. At last we arrived at the Great Pyramids. The big one we learned was King Cheops burial place, along with his Queen. It is about 430 feet high, and the same width through at the bottom. We started to climb up to the top, and what a climb. You had to climb over great big blocks of stone. How they got them up to the top I don’t know. We reached the half way place, where you can rest for a while to get you wind for it knocks it out of you going up. After a rest and a smoke we started again, away goes our mad guide ahead of us all, you would think he had only five minutes to get up in. Here we are at last right on the very top of the great Pyramid and what a view you get. You can see for miles up the Nile and over the desert. Cairo you can pick out without trouble and when you look down, how small everything seems, it makes you a little bit afraid. Well it was worth all the trouble in climbing for it is splendid up here. You can have a small cup of coffee, and I said small, which costs you 2/-, but it is just to say that you have drank coffee on the very top of King Cheops Tomb (or Pyramid).
Now we started on our downward trip which was worse than coming up because you can see down, and it make you feel a little uncomfortable. I turned my back on it, and came down with my face towards the Pyramid so I could not see down to the bottom. Well we reached the bottom at last, with a sigh of relief. Then the guide rushed us off to go inside the things. We had to take off our boots and leave a native boy in charge of them, woe betide him if he loses them. Well at last we are ready for our excursion under the mighty Pyramid. When you go in, you have to stoop down for it is a very small entrance and now I can understand why we had to take off our boots for it was very slippery inside. I did a fine slide as it was, and nearly knocked the guide off his feet. I put the candle out anyway. As you go down, you can see places cut out of the marble or whatever it is, to put your hands and feet in, so that you can steady yourself. Oh but what dust, I am nearly spitting blood with the blooming dust getting down my throat. But still our mad guide goes on, he does not seem to mind the dust. I suppose it is like a job to him.
After nearly going down for a hundred feet or yards, I don’t know which, we started to climb up again (and I might mention here that the passage we were in was only about 3 feet high, and the same width, so you can picture us getting along). It’s a sport going down this slippery passage. You could hear curses, because some fellow had slipped back on to another, and put his candle out. By this time I could not see Abdul our guide he was ahead a long way, I know I got his dust; but at last we caught up to him, and he pointed out to us a very deep well, which he said was over 100 feet deep. I looked at him thinking I had got an American. Then we asked him what it was for and he said when King Cheops wanted a drink, well that was the limit and big Page he burst out laughing, which started us all off. Fancy a dead man wanting a drink, it was very funny, but still it was their belief.
At last we came to the Kings Tomb, a chamber. It was a square place, with an oblong place cut out of the wall, that is where he is supposed to have laid in his coffin. Near this was a little square hole. I asked what that was for. I was told it was an airshaft, which went right through Pyramid. We all looked at the guide expecting to hear that it was there so that King Cheops could get fresh air when he wanted, but he never said anything to that effect. After having a good look around we set off to visit the noble Queen’s chamber. Like the last we had to go up a passage full of dust. The Queen’s place was just like her King. So we might just as well kept out of it, there was nothing to pinch, and by this time we were terribly hot and tired. So much for the chambers of the King and Queen Cheops. We made our way out again, and by the time we arrived at the entrance we had holes in our socks as big as five-shilling pieces, more darning to do. Soldiers must be everything like a housemaid, but never mind it is all in the game.
We arrived back in camp just in time for tea, and very tired indeed, but it was very instructive for us, anyhow we have seen one of the Marvels of the World, or I should say seven wonders.
Now we have a very heavy week in front of us, doing various camp duties, which in a new camp there are may things to do, such as looking after the sanitary arrangements, water supply, etc. We intend to visit Heliopolis next Saturday for a change, I hope it is not like Cairo. Fly away time and let us see a little bit of the war for we are sick of camp life just the same as Sydney was, the same thing over again.
Tomorrow I am on guard, my first time under active service conditions. 6pm until the next day, a 24-hour guard, with two hours on and four hours off, and nearly on the main road. Here we are at last all ready for our guard, the bugle has just sounded come and do your picket boys, as that means we must fall in for duty. We fell in and were inspected by the Officer of the day, and away we marched to relieve the others. We went through the ceremony of presenting arms, etc. and our corporal took charge. I was on the second relief, which would mean me being on my post at 8 o’clock till ten, then again from 2am until 4. I was given 20 rounds of ammunition, with five in my rifle and I just felt like a man of war, ready for anything. The first post was not so bad, but the 2am until 4 was a knockout.
I had a very funny experience, in our duty we had to allow no motors or anything on wheels into camp office last post. I was pacing my post deep in thought wondering what my people were doing and the friends I had left behind (for that is the time you think when everything is quite) when I heard a carriage coming along. I was alert in a second, and when it arrived I called on it to halt. I heard the man inside tell the driver to drive on, so I told him the second time to halt; or take the consequences for I would fire and call out the guard. He stopped, and out walked our Colonel, I did not know what to do, but before I had time to speak he asked me what I meant by stopping him. Now I had a slight grudge against him for giving us extra fatigues one day. So I told my duty was to stop every carriage or motor, and make the people walk, and he would have to walk up the lines. He said he had his bag to carry up would I carry it for him. Now I nearly fell in over that, but I just remembered it would be leaving my post and would rank as desertion so I said no, so he had to carry it up himself, saying he would see about it in the morning! I thought that I was in for trouble, but I did not care, for I had the pleasure of seeing him carry up his own bag. I laughed to myself because I was top dog for once. I told the corporal about it, he laughed so did the others, but oh, tomorrow…
9.30am next day the guard has just be called out to be inspected by his royal highness the Colonel, I was in a dread now as to what was going to happen to me. He looked us all over, then he asked for the man that held him up that night. I was very much surprised when he started to compliment me on doing my duty, he said he was glad there was one man that would do his duty even though it was to his discomfort, that was all right, but we had to present arms to him, and he made us do it three times before he was satisfied with it, the old dog.
I am tired of saluting officers for you get nothing else all day long on this post. It is not so bad on the wet canteen, for you can always manage to get a drink passed out to you.
Saturday again, and we are off to Heliopolis, we take a tram to Cairo then get another to Heliopolis. It was a fine ride, with some very lovely views on route. There were some very fine buildings to see, but my mind is not on this sort of thing. I wanted to study the upper class, which I did, and find them not quite so snobbish as ours. We did not stay too long, for we made our way to Cairo again where we had tea, and took very good care that we did not get done this time. After tea we went to a French music hall. While in there we met a French gentleman and his wife, and they invited us to their place. Which I can tell you we took advantage of, for we wanted some place to go, for we are very much tired of seeing the same old thing. I do not intend to detail what we did during the week we were in camp for it would only tire anyone to read it. By this time it was only three days off Christmas day, and we are going to have a good time according to all accounts.
I see Q. M. S. has got a big stock of things in for us. Fancy spending Christmas in Egypt; I wonder where the next one will be and under what circumstances?
If you could only see the mess rooms, the boys have been busy decorating with flags, etc. It looks quite a treat. Church Parade 10.30am then free for the day. I have just had a look at the menu for dinner, and my word it is great. We have poultry, roast beef, plum pudding, three or four kinds of vegetables with beer and fruitcake.
I am sure some of us will be ill with pains in the little maney. But never mind we are going to have a good time if we bust. Dinner over, we just feel like sleeping and nothing else, but we are going to see our French friends, and their daughters. Needless to say we had a very good time, and arrived back to camp very tired, but happy indeed. I intend to slip on now to New Years Eve. I will always remember the night for it was not a peaceful one.
We had gone to roost and it must have been about 12.30am or there about, when the most awful noise was heard in the lines, and before you realised what was the trouble a crowd of our fellows had marched into the tent, beating tins, playing mouth organs, and I might tell you they did not stop for anyone, just walked over every one, I know. I received one fellow’s big boot on my chest, but what could you do it was New Years Day and they were singing this.
“We are the Ginger Beers
We are the Ginger Beers.
We do all the work, nothing to shirk,
We haven’t got a canteen yet.
But we are the Ginger Beers.”
You could see how happy they were, even if they had no canteen, they managed to get some beer somewhere. We spent New Years Day in the Cairo Zoo among our friends the monkeys. We afterwards went to our friends where we had some singing and dancing, quite a good time we had and no mistake. This is our last public holiday for a while for we have to settle down to right hard work. The harder the work the less time in Cairo. We have received our new Pontoons for bridging in double quick time. There are 6 Pontoons for 9 companies of Engineers, and from this time on we have to devote our time to this work. I have nothing else in my brain but Pontoon drill. But it is quite a change from the other details.
We are quite used to Egypt now with all its faults. I along with my pals went to see the Citadel and some of the Mosques, which are very interesting. Of course like a lot of blobs we were, we wanted to go straight in with our boots on but no we had to put holy slippers on. All the time we were in, we were on the look out for some curios but they watched us too much for that.
We have had more musketry, this time we had to march out to the rifle ranges over the sandy desert, it was work going over there with full packs up, but we spent some good times even at this far away range. If you could only hear what the new boys are singing out it would amuse you. For our lads have learned them all the slang and filthy talk they could do, and they make use of it with a vengeance. If you see a Native – now he is on to you with this, “Australi very good, very nice”. “Plenty money Australi”. “Buckets of piasters”, etc., it makes you tired of the whole lot.
There is not much news to put down this month, I did not trouble to take only things of interest so we will pass on to the next month.
We are quite seasoned Egyptians now, with faces as hard as stone. That is, with the sun and sand. I never saw such a place for sand. You get sand for breakfast, dinner and tea, it gets in your eyes, ears, down your throat, I think I have swallowed enough grit to last me through the war.
A terrible thing happened to us the other night. I was on horse picket, and happened to be on duty, and was going my rounds when I had to pass the big water tank, I hear water rushing but I thought it was coming over the top, so did not trouble so much over it. The next time I came around, I spoke to the sentry about it. He said it was only over flowing, by this time it was worse, so I told him it was leaking, he had better warn the guard. He only just warned them in time, then the tank burst, I rushed away to warn the Major and the rest of the picket for we had our horses to look after. In about ten minutes our camp was under water, with half of the tents swept away. We had to cut the leg ropes off the horses, and take them up to the Third Brigade ones. You never saw such rushing about in your life, bags, rifles, etc., blankets rushing them anywhere where it was dry. I managed to get my things moved away, we had to sleep anywhere and anyhow.
I along with my pals were very fortunate, for we got an empty tent so we did not fare at all bad. But in the morning what a change, you could see nothing but tents washed down, the sergeants tent was gone altogether, and the Engineer’s Store that was wood, and it received the full force of the water, books, plans, targets, etc., all floating about, or had been. It was funny to see the natives digging up the sand for things. More work for us to do. Clear up the rubbish and dry everything, besides turning over the sand so that it would dry. Any how it was a fine sample of native work – it had only been built since December and just lasted until February.
Now we keep getting little snatches of news that we are to leave, the Third Coy have been down on the canal Ismalia along with some of the 3rd Brigade Infantry. They have just come back from there. Our major has told us that we may leave any time now, for where, he does not know. We are all very interested in this news, for we are fit and ready for anything now.
Nearly the end of the month and yet we are here, we are just in the same game as we were in Sydney, packing up one day and unpacking the next.
Feb 28th 1915
Told we are to leave Mena Camp on Sunday March 1st. That is good we are going to celebrate it tonight in the canteen. There goes Cookie with his ballads, he is properly wound up with two pints of beer. I believe he thinks he is just it, and he is poor fellow. Never mind he may think me just as bad. Allo, there goes Page right over the seat, singing “Who where you with last night” and “Get out and get under”. What sport we will have in the tent. Old Boller/Freebairn wants to be kissing everyone; Will Harvey wants to be Robbie Burns. Mansfield wants to be a comic singer, but what a failure he is. Cookie has gone to sleep and his snore seems to annoy me very much, and I have just given him a crack. Hello, what’s this? Harvey thinks he is Jack Johnson he wants to bash in someone’s head. At last there is a little order in the house, ah, I spoke to soon, here is Freebairn walking over everyone to come and tell us he wants to be friends, and will we shake hands. I don’t know about shaking hands, I got his heel in my little Mary, and he is no lightweight. Anyhow on Sunday we leave for somewhere.
March 1st 1915
The reason we are leaving with the 3rd Brigade is because we are fully equipped and the other companies are not. We have been very busy, with the tents and clearing away the tables and seats from our mess rooms, packing the General Timber Waggon and cleaning the lines right well. We are ready for the road, but have to wait until the infantry have passed then we follow on.
5.30pm we commenced our march to Cairo railway station, with the best of wishes to the fellows left. We arrived in Cairo some time about 10.00pm, and we then had to transport our waggons on the waiting train, which took us until 2.30am. We had just time for a little bit of biscuits before we embarked for Alexandria. We were very tired when we reached our destination for I can tell you, our troop train is not the most easy to ride in. We arrived in Alexandria at 6am and we had to unload our kit bags, and waggons after breakfast, which was fast, and no mistake, biscuits and cheese. I had the misfortune to be picked out Mess Orderly for the day, and I can tell you everything was upside down. I might say the ship we had embarked on was the SS Suffolk. Anyhow, after being Mess Orderly all the day I had to turn to and help the rest of the company with the waggons and I think we finished embarking about 1.30am the next day. I was just about tired out, and then there was a race for hammocks, but my good luck stuck to me, I got one and went right forward into the Sergeants place.
At last we are on the move again, once more on the sea, for where we do not know nor do we care very much. She is a very dirty ship; we have been on fatigues all the day cleaning her out. We have the 11th Battalion on board and we are under Lieut-Col Johnson (Tipperary) and Major Brockman. Anyhow the sea is lovely again after the rotten old sand.
We have been told today that we are bound for an island named Lemnos, a Greek possession 40 miles from the Dardanelles, so it looks like there is something doing that way. Now the ship looks a little bit better with the cleaning she received, but the food it is bad. We have Greek cooks and they just murder everything they put their hands on.
Arrived at Lemnos Island, what a splendid view when you are coming into the harbour. You would never dream there was such a harbour behind the entrance. It is just sunset now, and I can’t see very much of it, but with the sun sinking behind the hills it is a fine picture. We had a splendid trip, the sea was like glass all the way. Coming into the harbour, you are very forcibly reminded there is a war on, for first you have to go through a row of mines laid to trap any ships of the enemy, then you see war ships all around you. It makes you think a little about Britain’s might on the sea.
Now I have a chance to see the harbour. It is much larger than I thought last night. There are all kinds of ships here, from the largest Man of War to the smallest mine sweeper. Transports, supply ships, and even our friend the ‘packet of woodbines’, which we named a Russian War ship because she had five funnels close together.
I have just learned the largest battle ship here is the HMS Queen Elizabeth, a dreadnought with 15 ” guns on her. Something doing when she gets to work I bet.
At last we are settling down to some kind of work. No. 1 Section under Lieut. Mather is going ashore to fix up a camp. It looks like we are going to stay here for a while. I was wishing our section would go ashore for I was looking through a pair of glasses, and saw a nice little village, but no luck we have to stay on board ship.
March 7th 8th 1915
More troopships arrived, British and French. I don’t know how many troops there are here, but there must be nearly a division (20,000). We are quite busy fixing up stores for the boys ashore, our section is the slavery one, for we get nearly all the hard work to do. We play at leapfrog to pass away the time at night, it would get very tiresome if we just moped about.
March 9th 10th 1915
I am putting my diary into a two-day one, for there is not very much to tell in one day on this old tub. We had the misfortune to lose two horses, that is the effects of the sand they eat while in Egypt, it play havoc with them. Yesterday and today we have been on fatigues duty getting timber up out of the holds, for the boys to build a jetty on the shore. One of our Men of War came in a little damaged, I think she must have been doing some fighting somewhere near us.
March 11th 12th 1915
Another section as gone ashore, No. 3 under Lieut. Huntley. I have got out of the real had work, Cookie and me have been put on Sergeant’s Mess which gets you out of duty work, of course it is only being Mess Orderly for them, but it is not too bad. No. 4 Section have received orders to go ashore under Lieut. Biden so that leaves our section with all the hard work to do.
March 13th 14th 1915
This is payday, but we learnt that we are only to draw a £1, but anyhow it will buy cigarette papers and tobacco for we make our own now. I am getting very tired of being on board ship, for I feel like we are missing all the fun, nothing to look at but ships and the beach. We are general store keepers now, but I don’t care for I have no hard work to do.
March 15th 16th 1915
Lost another horse today, if we go on like this we will have none left. It is very quiet on this rat trap of a boat, after I have finished with the Sergeant I just sit on deck smoking and reading.
March 17th 18th 1915
The sea in the harbour is very rough, and the way it makes the small boats rock is very funny indeed, for you can see some of the fellows sick, and yet they have to keep on rowing. Sir Ian Hamilton arrived today to take full charge of all the troops here.
March 19th 20th 1915
The water is still very rough and I can tell you the boys have a very hard task getting to the shore. HMS Amethyst came into harbour today very much damaged, she has been up to the Dardanelles, and the Turks hit her a few times. The sea played up with the small boats some of them were washed ashore, they were fastened by tow lines to the troopships, we had six washed ashore – one of the 11th Battalion fell down the hold he was badly shook up, but got off with broken ribs.
March 21st 22nd 1915
Now we are going to have some lovely weather by the look of things, although it is bitter cold, for the wind is coming from the Dardanelles, and we can see the snow in the distance. It is the first I have seen since I left England. It is now three weeks since we left Mena Camp Cairo, and it looks like months to me. Nothing much doing on board, all the work is on shore.
March 23rd 24th 1915
Still very cold here, but so long as there is no rain it is all right. I have made a bet of 5/- with S. Cook that we wont be in Sydney next Christmas. Most of the English troops have gone to Alexandria to be reorganised, which will mean more delay again.
March 28th 1915
We are quite busy today, for we are moving cargo, and some of the boys are making a companion ladder for the SS Ionian. I have just gained a little information that Lemnos Island is the place where St Paul was stoned to death. I can’t say for the truth of it.
March 30th 1915
SS Nizam came alongside today. Also the SS Satereen, or some name like that. We are the store ship, it only makes thing a little busy, and it helps to kill the time.
The last day of March, and lovely weather, it reminds me very much of an English spring. Once again the ships are coming in, also two hospital ships, the SS Soudan, and a French one, which I can’t make out her name.
April 1st 1915
Mail arrived today, what excitement it caused, we simply rushed it. I received 10 letters enough reading for an hour. Good Friday yet we can hardly realise it, but for the band we would not know. They are playing “Nearer My God To Thee” it brings back happy memories to us boys so far away. But never mind we hope to be back some day.
Some of our Section have gone ashore to build a wireless place. I believe it will be ten days job, they are taking plenty of stores with them. This is a bit of all right for we have only three sergeants to look after.
We have been resting today for we have a very hard nights work in front of us, for we have to transfer waggons onto SS Nizam. We commenced work at 7.30pm and finished about 4am. We are to move to the SS Ionian tomorrow – this life is full of moves just like a game of chess.
On board SS Ionian, the accommodation is worse than the SS Suffolk, for we have to sleep on the concrete decks, or go up on top, I am going up on top. The harbour is pretty well full of Transports, etc., and nearly all of them seem to have steam up, surely there is something doing before long.
All the officers commanding were on board the HMS Queen Elizabeth – it must be a war council or something. We are just.
The unlucky 13th, it was for me because last night some silly idiot just put his big foot on to my face, the result is a black eye, and a big bruise. The way it happened I was sleeping on deck, and he just walked on to me.
Last night we had a surprise we had to disembark, and board HMS Prince of Wales, then we had to go back to the SS Suffolk. Then we went ashore. It was just training us to disembark, and get used to landing at some future place in the dark. I believe this is what we are to do now for a while, just to keep on landing and embarking.
We had quite a busy time on shore today, we also had a lecture from Tipperary. Tomorrow we are to leave Lemnos for some place on the Dardanelles.
We are all ready for leaving the SS Suffolk. It was about 11am that we embarked onto the Destroyers, which took us to the HMS London. We had been on her before, and knew our place, which had been allotted to us.
It would be about 1.30pm when we weighed anchor, and started on our new venture. It was a splendid view to see so many ships of all kinds leaving, one behind the other. Of course the War ships were first, then the Destroyers, and afterwards the Transports. We would be about half an hour’s run out when the ships all stopped for a short church service. It was very impressive though short, for we knew that some of us would never see another service, or perhaps the light of day again.
Afterwards we were told that we could have the run of the ship until after tea, then we had to get as much sleep and rest as possible for we would be awakened any time after twelve. Anyhow we took the opportunity to inspect the guns, etc. on board, also we had a big feed up, for we may be on dry rations for days after this. It would be about 10.30pm that me and my pals lay down to have a little rest before the dawn of the next day. I know that I did not sleep much for I was thinking of those I had left far away, and wondering if ever I would see them again.
April 25th 1915
We were awakened up about 1.30am and were told to get our equipment on as we had arrived at our destination. We were all excited, and before we fell in on deck, we had a ration of rum given to us, and we needed it for it was very cold. We then fell in on deck in the places marked out for us, and we had to make no noise, everything was done in order, no hurry or bustling.
The officer called the roll in a whisper, then we were told to disembark down the ladders into the small boats, which were waiting. I can tell you it was no easy task to climb down a ladder with a full pack up, and a sack with a pick and shovel in, and your rifle slung on your shoulder, anyhow we got into them, and it was a very tight fit (I may mention here that the Squad I was in under Sergeant-Major Pantlin were attached to the 11th Battalion).
For a short distance the boats kept in the shadow of the Man of War, and it was then I noticed we were in the first boat of our line, and that would mean we would be nearest the enemy. At last we drew away from our protection and proceeded inwards, to a place we had never seen before and we knew very little of what we had to go through before another day was over.
Now that we had left the warship we felt the tension, the silence was awful, everyone’s nerves were at a very high tension, for we were expecting every minute to be seen by the enemy. Anyhow, we went on our way slowly but surely and what drew my attention was a very bright star in the sky, that shone out so brightly and it seemed to be a magnet and was drawing us towards it.
By this time we could just make out the distant hills and we must have been only about a hundred yards off the shore, when the Commander of the Naval Pinance sang out the words “Tell the Colonel these devils have brought us a mile too far North” (what he meant then I did not know, but since I have learnt that it was the strong current that was running that carried us out of our way).
No sooner were the words out of his mouth, then a bright light shone out from the shore and one shot rang over the hills. We knew then that we were seen by the Turks and we were told to pull for our lives to the shore, by the time we had dipped the oars into the water, the bullets were hitting the boats and the water wholesale, then we were told to get out, and get ashore the best way we could, every man for himself. I can tell you it was cruel to see our lads dropping into the boats, for they had machine guns trained onto us besides their rifle fire.
It was just Hell let lose, nothing short of murder, to see our boys go down like sheep, it made your blood boil, and then that is the time you get mad with excitement, and you are only out to kill or be killed, to avenge the pals who you have loved like brothers. I along with my chums were lucky to reach the shore after a few attempts to wade through water up to the neck. It was the coldest Turkish bath I ever had. There were quite a number of our fellows drowned in trying to get ashore with their packs pulling them down.
After a while we reached the shore, and managed to get under cover, we threw off our packs, for we were wet to the skin. We rested awhile, then crawled along on our stomachs to join the boys, all the time the bullets were singing their death song about our ears, but we did not care for we were at high pitch.
No sooner did we come into view of the enemy, when they opened out with a very deadly fire. One of my pals Cleve Page was hit in the head, killed stone dead, he dropped at my feet; and I vowed vengeance on his slayers. Cook and me kept on, and joined the rest. Then the order was given to fix bayonets; and drive the Turks out, which we did with a vengeance. I will never forget that charge, for our boys started to coo-ee for all they were worth and gave them the cold steel.
What happen is too awful to put down, for even should I put it down no one would realise what war is like unless they have been in the thick of it, as we were then, and at what cost taking that hill, we took the first one, then the second, and we must have gone five miles that morning before nine. We had no officers hardly left to tell us what to do, and I know that some of our fellows were killed by shells from HMS Queen Elizabeth but it could not be helped.
The cries of the wounded, the moans of the dying, it was awful and they were giving us some shells to go on with, and we were suffering because we had no head cover. We were kept on the defensive all day, then night fell, our first night in the trench, as soon as it was dark we dug in, so that there would be a little shelter for us on the morrow.
I never passed such a night. Things would be fairly quiet, with the searchlights playing about from the war ship. When one of the boys would fancy he saw something move, and would let fly. That would start all the line blazing away. We had no rest for our nerves were too high strung to rest and we had to just keep banging away.
April 26th 15
No sooner did day break, than our ships started their bombardment. Boom Boom” went the Lizzie’s 15” guns, bang went the shells right into the Turk’s lines, they must have carried some damage. It just rained shells for all the ships were firing now, and we were in trouble too, for our machine guns were getting hot, the water was boiling, and we could not get fresh for a while, also our ammunition was running out.
The general cry was water, ammunition, Stretcher Bearer, the ammunition column did work hard, for they had to carry it up on their shoulders right up the hill, then after wards they brought mules ashore to carry up stores, etc. Which did make it a little easier for them. I must say a word about the stretcher bearers, they were heroes, every one of them, for they had to carry men down the cliffs to the dressing stations, which was no easy task I can tell you.
We were again being shelled by the Turks, and they were dropping shells right on to the beach, to try and stop the troops from landing, my word we suffered that day, when I had time to look around I found three bullets had gone through my haversack. I must have had a near shave once or twice, but it is all in the game. They shelled us all the day and peppered us with machine guns and rifles, it was cruel to see it all, then night fell again, and it was just a night of hell nor rest, and the wounded crying out for drinks or smokes. It all seems like a big nightmare. I intend to find my company tomorrow.
April 27th 15
Just the same as yesterday the big guns opened up the ball but our fellows were properly dug in now, and I believe they have landed some of our artillery, so it won’t be so bad after they get behind us.
I re-joined my company, and heard that I was reported missing, of course I had been away from them for two days, and had no chance to join them before, because every man was needed where I was. No sooner was I back, than our section were ordered to go to the New Zealand flank away on the left, we had to sap a road through the hill to their trenches so that the men would not have to go over the sky line which was a death trap, we worked all the night, and the next day, then we re-joined the company again.
Up to now I had no sleep and I was feeling the strain a bit, we dug a nice little dug out, Cook and me, and retired for the night, but we got no sleep for we were told we had to go and put barbed wire up in the front trench. It was a nice job lying on your stomach fixing wire right in front of the trench. I was glad it was before daybreak. I was just wondering what day it is, and I find it is Thursday the 29th.
April 29th 15
We are having a little spell today carrying timber from the beach to make a magazine for our explosives, and this is the kind of spell we get, but we are to get a nights rest tonight. The beach is full of wounded waiting to get away to hospital. Just fancy some of the finest men lying there maimed through no fault of their own, all for honour and love of country that reared them. We never know how soon we may be there too waiting our turn to go away wounded.
April 30th 15
Another day of hard work, but it is a rest from the firing line, but I do believe it is better up there than here on the beach for they are dropping shells every where, and a man never knows when he will stop a snipers bullet or get a piece of shell to go on with.
We did get our first rest last night, but sleep was out of the question you might drop off but then you would awaken with a shock. Just fancy finishing work with a royal salute every night. We always had a lot of shells to contend with before dark, then our ships and Howitzers would reply to them.
May 1st 1915
The first of May, fancy Mayday with such a fine firework display as we witnessed this morning. By the look of things they are getting hotter. There goes old Simpi with his donkey up to the front trench for wounded. If anyone deserves a VC it is him, for time after time he goes up the gullies for men, and he always comes down with his one on the donkey and the other walking with the aid of Simpson.
We are just formed up again to go up the noted Shrapnel Gully to look after some water springs or something of the like. I never liked the Gully for there are always plenty of snipers in about the bushes. We proceeded on our way quite unconcerned and all the time you could hear the ping, ping of bullets. They must have been very close to me at times for they sang me a song more than once on my way. We halted after a while in a place I for one did not care for. I told Cookie that someone would be hit here, he only laughed, but I seemed to feel that something was going to happen, and it did to.
When we halted Cecil Howlett, Cookie and myself lay down to rest. I had just lit up a cigarette when bang came a shell, it burst right close in on to us. The cap, or fuse, hit me fair in the knee, I let out an oath, for it carried the kneecap away. I then look around to see who else was hit, and here is poor Cecil Howlett with his head blow off, what a shock I received, it was worse than my own wound to me, and here is Cookie not touched. They carried me to some kind of cover, and the Red Cross fellows fixed us up as best they could. All I wanted was a smoke, and a drink. No sooner was I moved away then another shell burst in the same place, but hit no one because they had moved away. It was just then that Cookie came to say goodbye to me, how he felt leaving me like I was, and I felt the parting too, for we had been the very best of chums ever since we enlisted in Sydney.
He asked me for my rifle which I gave him, and wished him the very best of luck, and then he was gone. I was only laid there a short time when I was carried down on a stretcher to the beach. I was placed with the other boys who I had only been looking at a few short hours ago full of life. I was then, but now, not caring what happens only with this consolation, that I had done my duty. By this time I was feeling a little sick because my wound was paining me. I tried to sleep but it was no good, for fellows were moaning all around me, some were dying and singing out for their mothers, others for sweethearts. I tell you it makes you think of your dear ones when you are lying helpless like we were, for we are only like babies when we are wounded, helpless and do not care how things go with you.
I was thinking hard on what I had seen and done since being on this rotten place when I got a spent bullet in the left hip. It was just as well it was spent or I would have been fairly done, it was only a flesh wound. I wonder when they are going to move me from this Hell, it is getting worse and my wounds are just near sending me mad with pain.
At last I am to be moved away from here to some ship. They are none too gentle with a fellow, but I suppose it is me that only thinks so because my wounds are very painful, at last we are near some ship, and I can still see the shells bursting over the hills. Now it is my turn to be hoisted onto the ship, I could not see what kind of a ship she is, not that I care so much either. Here am I lying on a mess table with my feet touching some other unfortunate man. He is very restless, and keeps on kicking my feet, which makes me sit up.
I have just asked an orderly where we are going, and he told me Egypt, Alexandria. By this time I was beginning to think it was time my wound was dressed so I just called on the orderly and told him I had never seen a doctor yet and it was about time. I did for my wounds were giving me something to go on with. Anyhow eventually I was taken some place where some quack doctor had a look at me, he gave me an anaesthetic, I came round on the mess table again to find that my bed mate had died, that was the worst of war, you might be talking to a chum, and shortly afterwards you find he is dead.
We arrived at Alexandria about 6th May so I am told. I myself did not know that date for I had lost all interest in the days. I was put on to a stretcher and carried to a waggon and then transported to the Hospital ship Letitia, where I was laid into a nice clean cot. I do not remember anything then until the next day, and I could feel we were on the move to some other place, and I had been bathed and put into pyjamas. I must have dropped off to sleep or gone unconscious. Every day my wound in the knee was getting worse, and I could see it meant me losing my leg, but I would have sacrificed anything to get eased from the pain. It would be the 11th May when the Doctor came to do his rounds, and I asked him if he could not ease my pain, and if I would lose my leg. He spoke to the nurse for a while then he turned to me and said he had tried his level best to save it, but if I wanted to live I must have it amputated. I told him to take it off, for life was sweet at nearly any price and he said that was the right way to look at things.
12th May 1915
6.30pm I have just come around after my operation, which was successful, they have amputated my leg above the knee, I feel very weak, but not as much pain, the nurse is very kind to me and gives me anything I want. She has just told me that they are putting me off at Gibraltar along with some others. I will never forget our entry into Gibraltar Harbour. It was very foggy so they told me and the ships fog horn was going a trial, all of a sudden we felt a great bump, and the ship shook from stem to stern, we had collided with some other boat. The black stokers came running through the wards, only to be driven back by the ships officers, and they told us everything was alright, we had collided with another boat and had sunk it, with no loss of life. I myself did not care what happened. I was feeling pretty bad at the time. 11.30am I was taken up on deck and laid on a stretcher waiting to be moved ashore, at last it was my turn to be moved, and they carried me feet first; as they were just going to step on the gangway, they hurt my wounds very much with bumping me on the gangway, after that I seemed to get worse, and never remembered going into the Military Hospital.
I was unconscious for quite a long time for days, and I think to this day they kept me so, for my arms were sore with injections, and I had been under another operation. I remember very well coming out of unconsciousness, I looked all around me for I did not know where I was, and I must have cried out, for a Sister came up to me and asked me if I wanted anything. I asked for a drink, and she gave me a spoonful of soda water, she gave me one spoonful. I hope you will notice that for I looked at her, and said to her that I wanted a drink not a sparrow’s drink, she said that was all she could give me just then.
I must have gone to sleep again for I was awakened by the Doctor Major Wilson, he seemed a very nice man, for he talked a long time to me, and asked me how I received my wounds. After he had gone I had a chance to look around, and saw five others beside myself in the ward, I chatted to one of them and he told me we were in South 6 Ward Gibraltar Hospital. He belonged to the 4th Battalion – Sid Clarkson was his name. There was also Jack Towen, a New Zealand boy, Basil Snowden from the West of the 12th Battalion, he had lost his left foot, and Radford of Sydney of the 4th Battalion. Bruce Eager who seemed to be the worst of the lot. There was Sister Alsop, Sister Bates, Sister Clough and Sister Hook an Australian girl. They were all very good to us, and we had a Miss Steel who used to come every other day, besides the various ministers.
I am not going to try to remember dates because I was too bad to take any notice of them. I know that poor Bruce Eager died yesterday that only left five of us now out of nine. At this time I was very bad I had two more operations and it took me all my time to pull through, it was only the splendid nursing that I received that pulled me through. I have a great deal to thank the Sisters and Doctors of Gibraltar Hospital for I do not intend to dwell on what I suffered, for there were others doing the same as myself.
By this time I was feeling a great deal better, but I had to have one more operation. When I came through all right, after that I seemed to pick up very fast. I was put out on the veranda, and I could see the ships going to England, and some the other way. It made me long to see the old home again. I often used to let my thoughts dwell on home and tried to picture them, and what they would be doing. It would be about the 21st July when I first got out of bed, to sit up in a chair, but how tired I felt after being up 10 minutes but I stuck it for I had, had enough of bed.
July 23rd 1915
Miss Steel has just asked three of us out for a drive, so we will have a chance to see a little of Gibraltar. 5.30pm I have just been carried down to the carriage to go on our first drive. My first impression of Gibraltar was great. As you drove along towards Catalan Bay the mighty rock towered above us, like the horse would tower over a mouse, it looked very convincing with its vast amount of guns just peeping out, from all directions. I would not care to be in a storming party, if ever it was attacked.
There was also an aerodrome with 3 monoplanes in. We had the pleasure of seeing one go up. We then drove on to Catalan Bay, which is the far point we can go to. While there we met a French Sister of Mercy, she gave us smokes and toffee and said she had five brothers at war in France. After that we drove back along the Spanish frontier lines. It was very funny to see the British sentries and the Spanish just side by side yet never speaking a word to one another. What struck me most was the amount of smuggling going on, on the British side of the lines. I have seen men and women packing tobacco down their stockings, tying it on the arms and even fixing it on to fowl’s wings. Just so they could get through the Spanish lines, for I believe tobacco is 10/- a lb. duty in Spain, so it is quite easy to see why they do it for tobacco is very cheap in Gibraltar.
When we were coming back we met all the unknown workmen coming from various places, they raised their caps to us, and even the soldiers and police saluted us. We were taken along the docks, which were very interesting, and then we went through the camps, which by the way is the poor part of the town. It is here, as in Egypt where you see different nationalities, it is very cosmopolitan, and just reminds one of the Wassa in Cairo.
We arrived back to the hospital about 7.30, very tired but happy for it had been a great change from the hospital life. I know I slept better that night than I had done for a long time. After that we had plenty of drives for we were picked up every day, although I am still sticking to my little chair, which I can wheel about myself, I can go anywhere, bar down the stairs.
Here, we have been nearly three months, and I believe we are to go home to England on the next boat that there is room for us.
August 10th 1915
We have had all particulars taken and we are to go home at last. We have been given uniforms, etc. and I feel a little sorry at leaving the hospital, for the Sisters have been more like a mother to me, and the people have been good. I will never forget Miss Steel for she was everything to us. Sister, mother and she could never do enough for us. Also, I must mention Sisters Alsop and Bates for they did a great deal towards my recovery. I will remember to my dying day when I said Good Bye to them, they both kissed me, and they had tears in their eyes. I just felt like I was parting from my dearest friends. We went aboard the SS Birrima, one of the PO branch lines, she was a troopship. There must have nearly 300 on board. Australians and English troops. I had the luck to be put in the hospital ward along with Snowden.
It was a terrible voyage for the German submarines were at that time sinking ships, we had to sleep with our life belts near us, and about every hour there was a boat passing for those that could manage to get up. I will never forget the Saturday night, it was a lovely night, but the ship was going top speed, and in a zig zag course. I learnt afterwards that they had seen a submarine. I was glad when day broke for we were to get an escort, which we did, four destroyers then we knew we were quite safe, bar hitting a mine.
We arrived at Plymouth about 10.30am and what a reception we got from the Naval men, and people. I along with Snowden was taken to the Red Cross Waggons, while the other fellows got into a waiting train. I was very disappointed for I wanted to go up to London, but we had to be content. We arrived at Plymouth Military Hospital about 1.30pm, and were put into one of the huts. Hut 4 it was, they were nicely fit up and the Sister and Nurses seemed very nice.
August 16th 1915
We were transferred to another ward, B4 in another block. The only thing about this ward was the amount of steps we had to climb up if we went into the grounds, but there was a lovely veranda. The sister in charge was a New Zealand girl, Sister Thomas, she was very nice also the Nurse. We soon made pals with the boys, for no matter where you go, the boys have the same feeling of camaraderie, we are all brothers and have been fighting for the one cause. Now that Snowden and me were settled for a while we contented ourselves, by just passing the time reading or playing cards.
August 20th 1915
We are going to go out on a motor drive, with Mrs Dudley North an Australian lady, we are going to Dartmoor. 2.30pm We are on our way with the lady, it is lovely here in Devonshire and Cornwall, what lovely fields and hedges, it makes one admire nature more after being in hospital so long.
I have learnt from Mrs North that the boys of HMS Australia are paying for our little outing. I am sure it is very good of them. We had tea at Mrs Di Crows place another Australian lady – she was very nice to us. Things go on the same here day after day, and we are getting a little tired of this place. I had a little bit of a go with one of the sisters, she was a bad tempered woman.
We are trying our best to get moved up to London, we are right fed up with things in general here, we have had a complete change in Sisters and Nurses, and it is not like the same place for you can’t joke as much with the new ones.
Oct 14th 1915
At last we are to go up to the big smoke (London). Snowden and myself leave today along with an orderly to look after us, for they won’t take any risks with us, I expect they are afraid we will do a bolt somewhere. Anyhow we arrived London 1.30pm and reported at our head quarters, Horseferry Rd, Westminster. We had a very trying wait before we could get to see where we were to be sent, any how we were to go to Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton, we arrived there about 6.30pm and were then given our beds and I can tell you we slept well that night.
I do not intend to dwell on what happened in this hospital, but we had a royal time. I may mention this is where we get our artificial limbs. I might also mention while in this hospital I had the luck to see a Zeppelin Raid, it was a soul stirring sight to see them drop the bombs, but the awful damage they did.
I am to stay here until I get my discharge from hospital and can go home on furlough for a few months, which won’t go down to bad.
We are in our Depot at Weymouth awaiting to go back to Australia, and I won’t be sorry when I am right back in Sunny New South again. I have met quite a number of my old pals here in camp, and as we are all going on the same boat it won’t be too bad.
By Jove we are having some rough weather here, snow, rain, etc., all thrown in. We are in huts and I can’t say very much for the accommodation at all, for we sleep on the floor of course with a straw mattress, and four blankets, it is very rough and no mistake, but we will soon be out of it all into some other danger for a while.
March 11th 1916
We have just come aboard the SS Suevic, and we are to leave today – she is not a bad old tub, and the sooner we get away the better. We sailed 4.30pm just on dark, and the band played us off in good style with “Should auld acquaintance be forgot”. I intend to finish here now and on April 29th we arrived back in dear old Sydney after being away nearly two years.
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