Using letters, diaries and photographs, The Sunday Age recounts events through the eyes of the diggers who battled on amid despair and death. Jonathan King reports.
APRIL…. THE LANDING
The great challenge for the Anzacs on April 25 was to land at Anzac Cove
against formidable opposition from the Turks and then dig in.
We are now within a mile of the shore and the din has increased . . .
the whole side of the mountains seems to be sending forth tongues of flame
and the bullets fairly rain upon us . . .
the water is churned up from rifle fire, machine-guns,
Maxims, shrapnel and common shells . .
seven of the boys in our boat are killed and God knows how many in the others
Anonymous soldier, the 3rd Brigade
Our boat’s bottom scratches the rocky shore . .
we wade ashore with the feeling that we are at least one of the first to put foot on Turkish soil . . . silent forms lay scattered on the beach everywhere:
some gone to their last resting place, some writhing in their last agonies,
others with their life-blood fast oozing out . .
It was a remarkable day and a day in which it was easy to pick out the wasters
also the brave men.
I am delighted with our Australian troops, the way they take the gruel is splendid.
At times there was a shortage of ammunition and reinforcements were badly wanted.
But seeing they had landed everything under shell fire,
I should say they did very well
Private T. J. Richards
MAY….. BURYING THE DEAD
The Anzacs organised a truce with the Turks so they could bury their comrades
who had been killed since the landing.
Had a darn good sleep and got up at about 6am and issued rations to the chaps.
Then the shrapnel began and it hailed around about us
and hit everything around me but myself
We deepened our sleeping place about three feet
but it was not deep enough.
Captain D. B. A. King
Our troops made a successful advance and,
according to the number of injured coming in,
they paid dearly for it. What a pitiful sight they presented.
They had been 20 hours lying all over the place with great gaping wounds.
Some had both legs broken
and the pain they endured coming down the steep sides was almost unendurable.
Lieutenant F. T. Small
The armistice began for the purpose of burying the dead.
The smell is something awful.
Some of the bodies have been lying in the heat of the sun for four weeks
and of course all are unrecognisable.
It is only by identification discs that the corpses are known.
The ground was simply covered with dead between the trenches
and estimates of 12,000 Turks killed have been made.
Amongst this awful mass of dead Turks were some of our boys
who had been killed on the first and second days’ fight
and had lain there since.
The bodies were horrible to look at being black and swelled up
stretching out the clothing and, in many cases,
when they were touched, falling to pieces.
JUNE ….ALL QUIET ON THE FRONT LINE
After the difficult landing in April and fighting in May, both sides ceased fighting.
I have established a little prayer meeting in my dug-out on Pope’s Hill.
Sometimes we sing a well-known hymn,
Nearer, my God to Thee, and the sound is wonderfully inspiring.
Chaplain E. N. Merrington
We have not had our clothes off for five weeks
and it was most pleasant to strip off and have a dip in the sea.
The weather here is glorious just at present and I am in the best of health.
Private F. W. Muir
The trenches are ridiculously quiet considering war is on
and often perfect quiet prevails to be broken by the pot of a single snipe
or the dismal squeal of a shell.
Lieutenant R. W. McHenry
JULY ……TALK OF MUTINY
The debilitating heat stalled fighting
and there was talk of mutiny among the Australians.
I would not care a rap if 75 per cent of our officers had a wooden cross over their heads.
Half of our duty men are taken up digging most secure dug-outs for officers
or washing shirts for them in half a bucket of water
while other men are almost famished for a drink
By God, if ever I am asked to dig a dug-out for one or wash their shirts
I will be shot at daybreak for refusing to obey an order on active service.
Private J. K. Gammage
The captured Turks who surrendered reckon that we are great shots.
They are full of admiration for our shooting and fighting generally
and admit being terrified
Sergeant C. Bosward
AUGUST ….BATTLE FOR LONE PINE AND THE NEK
Having consolidated their positions and obtained reinforcements,
the British ordered the Australians over the clifftops on a mission impossible
with dire consequences.
One hundred and fifty men of the 8th Light Horsemen jumped out of the trench
but were all mown down within 30 seconds,
sinking to the ground as though their limbs suddenly became string.
They were waiting, ready for us and simply gave us a solid wall of lead.
Sergeant Cliff Pinnock
It was a truly awful sight.
Once more the long procession of wounded, dirty, ragged, torn and bloody men
came down from the Nek to the dressing station
while others lay just 25 yards (23 metres) in front of the trench in the hot sun
not daring to move till night when some of them might be able to crawl slowly back.
Corporal Alec Riley
As we captured Lone Pine we felt like wild beasts
and as fast as our men went down another would take his place
but soon the wounded were piled up three or four deep
and the moans of our poor fellows and also the Turks we tramped on was awful.
Private Tom Billings
SEPTEMBER…. DISEASE STRIKES
With so many soldiers now stationed at Gallipoli,
the poor food supplies and sanitation triggered an outbreak of disease.
In the morning we get a piece of bacon, a pint of tea and hard biscuits,
perhaps a loaf of bread.
For dinner, we have water, tea and sugar, and for tea we have bully beef stew.
Sapper V. Willey
The general health is bad with as many as 50 per cent of the men unfit for duty
and unless relieved there will be, to a certainty, a severe epidemic
of pneumonia, dysentery and enteric fever as the resisting power
to disease is practically nil.
War Diary of the 12th Infantry Brigade
You ought to see the Anzac fleas, millions of them,
and other things that crawl and stick closer than a brother.
My blanket nearly walks by itself.
Captain Bill Knox
OCTOBER ……TRADING TUCKER WITH THE TURKS
The frontline soldiers had been at Gallipoli and inactive for so long
they began chatting to the Turks in the trenches,
often less than 10 metres away.
The more one sees of it, the more one realises the
rottenness and horror of the whole business.
God knows I do want to do my bit and am far from having cold feet,
but any reasonable-minded man must wonder what the outcome will be –
war is not a very pleasant thing, old girl.
Captain Bill Knox
Extraordinary friendly exchanges between the Turks
and our fellows this morning early.
Some of our chaps ran right over to the enemy trenches and
exchanged bully, jam, cigarettes etc.
The whole business was wonderful and proves how madly unnecessary
this part of the war is.
Lieutenant T. E. Cozens
Some graves are very artistically finished,
done in some cases by the brothers of the dead,
others have simply a bottle with a piece of paper with the name inside.
It is very touching.
Anonymous, 20th Battalion
NOVEMBER …..LORD KITCHENER VISITS
As the soldiers had made so little headway,
the British military command had decided to send Minister for War Lord Kitchener
to determine if Gallipoli should be evacuated.
Today (November 13) Lord Kitchener landed here.
All the chaps on the beach gave him a cheer when he stepped ashore.
He addressed a small party of colonials
and told them he had a special message from the King.
He was to thank them all on the King’s behalf
and to say he was more than proud of our doings.
F. A. Weeks
We are now down to half-issue water.
Private A. West
Had another storm last night. It was such as I have never seen before,
and hope never to see again.
The wind was something terrible – it was quite impossible to stand up in it.
The trenches are terrible.
Captain Ivor Williams
The first fall of snow fell tonight. We spent a cold, wet and miserable night.
The ground was frozen.
In our supports trenches we have no overhead cover.
Our clothes and blanket wet through.
The snow is a beautiful sight, no doubt.
We are past admiring scenery just now.
We are on half rations, biscuits and cheese.
How we hate the sight of those biscuits.
Private John Henry Turnbull
Although the Anzacs were holding out well,
the British military command evacuated Gallipoli before the bitter winter set in.
We have had a foresight of what it would be to put the winter in here
as we had a torrential downpour of rain recently.
It came down the hills as if a huge dam had been dug away
and simply swamped the trenches.
P. O. Bert Webster
What makes the men growl is seeing immaculately dressed British staff officers
walking about washed and shaved asking silly damned questions.
I am fairly convinced I am becoming a bit of a Socialist.
Captain Bill Knox
Everything points to the early evacuation of the Peninsula.
It will be a thunderbolt to Australia.
There is no doubt this peninsula part of the war has been the greatest failure.
Lieutenant J. G. Cosson
We left in small parties, I had 28 men and left the trenches at 5.15pm.
Each ranks carried two match-head grenades as well as ammunition
and as we marched on to the pier we threw them into the water.
It was a great success and I don’t know yet whether the Turks know we have gone.
Lieutenant N. E. McShane
The evacuation from Anzac was not by any means a defeat,
but it became obvious we could do no good there and were getting hell
from the new, bigger Turkish guns,
but we had attempted the impossible at the Dardanelles
and the Turks can make a very good story of their victory.
Captain Bill Knox
Gallipoli Diaries: The Anzacs Own Story Day by Day by Jonathan King (Simon & Schuster)
Australian War Memorial, Canberra
Mrs Diana Baillieu, Mrs Mary Burke, Mrs Kate Campbell
This was printed in the Sunday Age a couple of years ago
Found and posted by Phil C.