The news – that I was indeed going – made a man of me again. It put bones into my legs ; it flushed my veins with red blood. I got up and dressed. I couldn’t have run a race, but a stick and I did quite a creditable hobble around that old hospice that had once belonged to a German sisterhood, and that now decidedly did not. I found old friends ; I made new ones.
It was a most up-to-date establishment, this ex-German hospital. The operating-theatre was sumptuous – marble- lined, glass, silver, everything perfect. One poor Irish wag, who went into it with two legs and came out with one, looked into it a month afterwards and began to warble, ‘I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls’. The whole place did the Germans great credit. It shone with their thoroughness.
On peeping into one of the cubicles I noticed a poor fellow with both legs and both arms swung in supports from the ceiling. He was absolutely helpless, of course. But two charming V.A.D.’s were giving him tea, and making much of him, and he seemed as happy as a well-fed baby. He was an Australian, … Read the rest
The doctors and the orderlies worked supremely ; and that boat was as full of kindness as it was of wounds and woe.
Personally, instead of getting better, I seemed steadily to be getting worse, and the only comfort I got from the M.O. was that I’d be worse yet before I was any better.
We were four days at sea, and then, on just such another morning as we had first seen the lovely, laughing place, we steamed again into Alexandria. The gem city of Egypt had not changed since we Ieft her, leaping expectant towards our fray; but we! –
Most of the officer cases had to go to Cairo, and I was booked for there. For some reason or other, some sick man’s fancy that I cannot recall, I wished to stay in Alexandria, and I managed to work it – how I do not remember either. There is a deal of haze in my mind still about those days.
In the afternoon I was taken off in an ambulance to No. 19 General Hospital. Before the war it had belonged to a German sisterhood.
In the entrance-hall a nurse had a look at the tab on … Read the rest
But, of course, I had to stick it out, so I rose and got my report off through the battered ‘phone, which the surviving signallers just managed to make work once more, by propping it here, splicing it there.
I was now infernally hungry – it was well on in the afternoon – but there was no sign of food. So I had a look at the beastly car, which was still there – I dare say it is there now – and in it I found bully-beef and biscuits. Bully-beef is not my special weakness, but I ate that bully-beef for all it was worth, and I always have liked biscuits.
In one of the attacks that day a small party of an English regiment rushed a machine-gun, and succeeded in capturing it and the officer in charge, who was only slightly wounded. It happened to be a volunteer crew who manned the gun, a crew from the Goeben, which was so much in evidence early in the war. The officer in command of the machine- gun was a Prussian. He was wild at being captured. He commanded (and then he begged) to be shot dead rather than be … Read the rest
We had been at the Pink Farm not quite five days, when orders came at half- past six in the afternoon that the battalion would move to the firing-line that night at eight viâ the Gurkha Bluff, the large, deep nullah that was rendered famous by the Indian Highlanders.
If every fight I saw in Gallipoli defies and baffes all description, the thrice-bloody battle of Krithia beggars every other. It was hell heaped up, running over, multiplied a thousandfold. We went through it only, I think, because the intensest human sense of suffering and sensibility to torture are reached in a comparatively mild stage of battle. Men suffer all they can suffer in battles many times less ardent, less concentrated of agony, than was Krithia. And when men have reached their acme of pain and of horror, the piling up of more does not affect their sense of woe, even if it be heaped higher than ‘old Pelion, or the skyish head of blue Olympus’.
Modern war is a mosaic of tiny fragments, cemented together by human blood, hammered together by ten thousand individual energies. Each man does his bit. Few men see or know much of the whole. Only … Read the rest
The fulfilled premonitions of wartime are enormous in number and quite indisputable in fact. The proportion of fulfilments that I have known personally inclines me to think that premonition has more significance than chance. On the other hand, unfulfilled premonitions are far from rare among soldiers, as it is only fair to admit.
But one striking difference I have noted between premonitions fulfilled and justified and those unfulfilled and discredited is that the former were usually dated and fairly definite in detail, whereas the latter were almost always vague and pointed to no date. The fulfilled were to the unfulfilled in the ratio of about five to one.
I expected my turn of the bullet or the shell to come in Gallipoli but it never did. I expected it rather in a spirit of esprit de corps, I think, than in the spirit of prophecy. I expected, rather than felt, that it would come. And I never felt that I should be killed. One day an orderly, who was some-what long in doing an errand, showed me his helmet when he came back, with a bullet-hole through its side, and the ventilator in the top knocked off He remarked to … Read the rest
It was still early in the morning when we had all arrived at a tumble-down building, covered with a faded red roof (or what once had been a roof), and rejoicing in the name of the Pink Farm. We were to camp about fifty yards to the right of the ruined house. we started at once to dig ourselves in, and to make ourselves in that and other ways as comfortable as British troops might hope to be in Gallipoli. The Turks were not quite always with us, but the useful spade was.
We had been in the peninsula a month now, and on our second day at the Pink Farm our first draft arrived from home. We were jolly glad to see them. There were two officers with them, who had been sergeants with the old regiment at mobilisation. The men had been recruited mainly from Bo’ness, and were miners by trade. As they should take naturally to digging, I immediately commandeered them to dig an officers’ mess, and in a couple of days we had a splendid dug-out just in front of the old farmhouse. I had managed to abstract from the beach some wood, wire netting, and … Read the rest
After one more day came orders for us to go back to the firing-line, and so, for the time being, our so-called rest was over. It had not been a halcyon time, but it had had its points, and to us one of the pleasantest of them was the issuing of another order of the day which ran :
General Headquarters, 12th May 1915.
For the first time for eighteen days and nights it has been found possible to withdraw the 29th Division from the fire fight. During the whole of that long period of unprecedented strain the division had held ground or gained it against the bullets and bayonets of the constantly renewed forces of the foe. During the whole of that long period they have been illuminating the pages of military history with their blood. The losses have been terrible, but mingling with the deep sorrow for fallen comrades arises a feeling of pride in the invincible spirit which has enabled the survivors to triumph where ordinary troops must inevitably have failed. I tender to Major-General Hunter Weston and to his division at the same time my profoundest sympathy with their losses and my warmest congratulations … Read the rest
It is not inappropriate, I think, to quote here General Sir Ian Hamilton’s Order of the Day. Naturally we were very proud of it, and it gives an authoritative idea of what we had passed through.
‘SPECIAL ORDER OF THE DAY.
General Headquarters, 9th May 1915.
Sir Ian Hamilton wishes the troops of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force to be informed that in all his past experiences, which include the hard struggles of the Russo- Japanese campaign, he has never seen more devoted gallantry displayed than this which has characterised their efforts during the past three days. He has informed Lord Kitchener by cable of the bravery and endurance displayed by all ranks here, and has asked that the necessary reinforcements be forthwith despatched. Meanwhile the remainder of the
East Lancashire Division is disembarking, and will henceforth be available to help us to make good and improve upon the positions we have so hardly won.
E. M. WOODWARD,
Deputy Adjutant- General, M.E.F’
It was still very early when we arrived at the rest-camp, but already the cooks were plying industriously their savoury art, and even before I bathed, I breakfasted. Oh! It was good to sit alone and eat clean … Read the rest
The next morning gave us a little breathing-space ; and to me it gave an opportunity of getting ‘the hang’ of the position, and of forming an idea of our casualties. One of our best subalterns had been killed. Three subalterns and a captain were wounded.
At this period it was very difficult to get the wounded away. The stretcher-bearers had already been pretty well knocked about, and it meant two effective soldiers’ lives risked, to each wounded man, in the endeavour to get them taken back. This entailed keeping the wounded till nightfall, when a few men could be spared. But this too was dangerous, for the peninsula was a most peculiar place to walk about in at night – you never knew the minute you might go head over heels into a nullah. The place abounded in nullahs, cracks, and fissures.
All art is cruel, and, though it rewards greatly, it demands and exacts great sacrifice. War is the cruellest art of all. To wage it mercifully and tenderly is to wage it ineffectually. And usually to make the attempt is futile and fatuous. To say that in these days we do too little for our wounded is … Read the rest
The next two days were spent in settling down to the pick, pick, pick of trench warfare, and to the holding of positions already won. By now my men had all been under fire, and they were as jolly as possible, although we had a casualty every little while, and each of us knew that it might be his turn next. But it takes a thundering lot to depress Mr Thomas Atkins, and to stop him from seeing some humour even in the most critical situation. If there is anything ridiculous to see, he sees it and chuckles at it, though he has to see it through blood, to between death-groans. If there is nothing ridiculous, he invents it. His laugh he must and will have. And I have no doubt that it is this indestructible quality of bubbling jollity that keeps our men the most contented and the most manageable of all armies.
In Gallipoli the so-called ‘rest-camp’ or reserve-trench was the most dangerous place. The firing-line, so long as you kept your head well down, was really the safest place, except just when you were going over the top; that was hot always. In the support-trenches you usually … Read the rest