Extracts from Anzac Gallipoli War Diary – By T.E.Drane

Extracts from the personal war diary of T. E. Drane from Forbes, NSW, written during WWI between August 1914 and April 1916.

Read the complete diary of T.E. Drane

Sunday Oct 18th 1914
Leaving through Sydney Heads
5.30 pm.

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.

Dec 15th, 1914
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.

Sunday Dec, 1914
Climbing King Cheopes Tomb

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).

Sunday Dec, 1914
Top dog for once.

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.

April 25, 1915
Before the landing

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)

April 26, 1915
A near shave

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.

May 1st 1915
Simpson and his donkey

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.

Read the complete diary of T.E. Drane