"Over There" with the Australians: 15th Bde 5th Division AIF 1914/18
by Captain Reginald Hugh Knyvett, Intelligence Officer 15th Australian Infantry
The full text of this book is available in digital format from Ex Libris www.ozebook.com
FATE has decided that Gallipoli shall always be associated with the story of the Anzacs.
This name (which is formed from the initial letters of the Australian & New Zealand Army Corps) does not describe more than half the troops that were engaged in that ill-fated campaign, but it has so caught the popular fancy, that in spite of all that historians may do, injustice will be done in the thought of the public to the English, Scottish, and Irish regiments and the gallant French Colonial troops who played an equally heroic part.
There were certainly no finer troops on the Peninsula probably in the whole war no unit has shown greater courage than did the glorious Twenty ninth British Division in the landing at Cape Helles.
No writer who accurately pictured these memorable months of our ' treading on the corns of the Turkish Empire' could leave out even the oval dark-skinned Britishers from the Hindustani hillsand from the Ganges. There both Gourkas and Sikhs added to their reputation as fighters.
Australia and New Zealand's part does not, in actual accomplishment or in personal daring and endurance, outclass the doings of these others, the larger half of the army. But there is a romance and a glow about the ' Anzac' exploits that (rail at the injustice of it as you may) makes a human interest story that will elbow out of the mind of the ' man in the street ' what other troops did. In fact, every second man one meets has the idea that the Australians and New Zealanders were the only men there.
I don't intend to try and write the story of Gallipoli - I haven't the equipment or the experience - John Masefield has written the only book that need be read, and only a man who was in that outstanding achievement of the landing on the 25th of April has a right to the honour of associating his name in a chronicle of ' What I did'.
What I am going to attempt to do is just to picture it as a ' winning of the spurs ' by the youngest democracy on earth.
There was something peculiarly fitting in the fate that ordained that this adolescent nation of the South Seas should prove its fitness for manhood in an adventure upon which were focussed the eyes of all nations. The gods love romance, else why was the youngest nation of earth tried out on the oldest battlefield of history ? How those young men from the continent whose soil had never been stained with blood thrilled to hear their padres tell them as they gathered on the decks of the troopships in the harbour of Lemnos, that to-morrow they would set foot almost on the site of the ancient battlefield of Troy, where the early Greeks shed their blood, as sung in the oldest battle-song in the world.
These young Australians were eager to prove their country's worth as a breeder of men. Australians have been very sensitive to the criticism of Old World visitors - that we were a pleasure seeking people, who only thought of sport - that in our country no one took life seriously, and even the making of money was secondary to football, and that we would all rather win a hundred pounds on a horse-race than make a thousand by personal exertion. Practically every book written on Australia by an Englishman or an American has said the same thing, that we were a lovable, easy-going race, but did not work very hard, and in a serious crisis would be found wanting.
The whole nation brooded over these young guardians of Australia's honour, and waited anxiously for them to wipe out this slur. That explains Australia's pride in ' Anzac.' It meant for us not merely our baptism in blood-it-was more even than a victory - for there, with the fierce search-light of every nation turned upon it, our representative manhood showed no faltering - but proved it was of the true British breed, having nevertheless a bearing in battle that was uniquely its own. In this age of bravest men the Australian has an abandon in fight which on every battlefield marks him as different from any other soldier.
There is an insidious German propaganda suggesting that the Australians are very sore at the failure on Gallipoli and that we blame the British Government and staff for having sent us to perish in an impossible task. I want to say, that while in the Australian army, as private, N.C.O., and officer, I never heard a single criticism of the government for the Gallipoli business. There is no man who was on the Peninsula who does not admire General Sir Ian Hamilton, and most of the officers believe that Britain has never produced a more brilliant general.
That the expedition failed was not the fault of the commander-in-chief nor of the troops. And, any way, we Australians are good enough sports to realise that there must be blunders here and there, and we're quite ready to bear our share of the occasional inevitable disaster.
But Gallipoli was not the failure many people think. Some people seem to have the idea that a hundred thousand troops were intended to beat a couple of million, and take one of the strongest cities in the world. There never was a time when the Turks did not outnumber us five to one, when they did not have an enormous reserve, in men, equipment, and munitions, immediately at their back, while our base was five hundred miles away in Egypt.
The Turks had a Krupp factory at Constantinople within a few hours of them, turning out more ammunition per day than they were using, while ours had to come thousands of miles from England. Of course, we were never intended to take Constantinople. The expedition was a purely naval one, and we were small military force, auxiliary to the navy, that was to seize the Narrows and enable the ships to get within range of Constantinople, and so compel its surrender. We failed in this final objective, but we accomplished a great deal, nevertheless.
We held back probably a million Turks from the Russians, and we left, in actual counted dead Turkish bodies, more than double our own casualties (killed, wounded, and missing). But, above all, we definitely impressed the German mind with the fact that Great Britain did not mean the British Isles but the equally loyal brave fighters from Britain overseas.
Here is no history of Gallipoli, but let me try sketch four pictures that will show you the type of men that there joked with death and curses sound to angel ears sweeter than the hymns of the soft-souled churchgoer.
The Landing At Anzac 25 April 1915
"THE LANDING THAT COULD NOT SUCCEED - BUT DID"
PICTURE yourself on a ship that was more crowded with men than ever ship had been before, in a harbour more crowded with ships than ever harbour had been crowded before, with more fears in your mind than had ever crowded into it before, knowing that in a few hours you would see battle for the first time.
Having comrades crowding round, bidding you good-bye, and informing you that as your regimental number added up to thirteen, you would be the first to die, remembering that you hadn't said your prayers for years, and then comforting yourself with the realisation that what is going to happen will happen, and that an appeal to the general will not stop the battle any way, and you may as well die like a man, and you will feel as did many of those young lads, on the eve of the 25th of April 1915.
There was some premonition of death in those congregations of khaki-clad men who gathered round the padres on each ship and sang 'God be with you till we meet again.' You could see in men's faces that they knew they were' going west' on the morrow - but i was a swan-song that could not paralyse the arm or daunt the heart of these young Great-hearts who intended that on this morrow they would do deeds that would make their mothers proud of them.
For if you 'as to die,.
As it sometimes 'appens, why,
Far better die a 'ero than a skunk
A' doin' of yer bit.'
Robert W. Service.
As soon as church-parade was dismissed, another song was on the boards, no hymn, maybe not fine poetry, but the song that will be always associated with the story of Australia's doings in the great war, Australia's battle-song-' Australia Will Be There '-immortalised on the Southland and Ballarat, as it was sung by the soldiers thereon, when they stood in the sea-water that was covering the decks of those torpedoed troopships. It was now sung by every Australian voice, and as those crowded troopships moved out from Lemnos they truly carried ' Australia,' eager, untried Australia -where ?
The next day showed to the world that ' Australia would always be there ! Where the fight raged thickest. Her sons might sometimes penetrate the enemy's territory too far, but hereafter, and till the war's end, they would always be in the front line, storming with the foremost for freedom and democracy.
The landing could not possibly be a surprise to Turks ; the British and French warships had advertised our coming by a preliminary bombardment weeks previously-the Greeks knew all about our concentration in their waters-and wasn't the Queen of Greece sister to the Kaiser ?
There were only about two places where we could possibly land, and the Turks were not merely warned of our intentions, but they were warned in plenty of time for them to prepare for us a warm reception. The schooling and method of the Germans had united with the ingenuity of the Turks to make those beaches the unhealthiest spots on the globe. The Germans plainly believed that a landing was impossible.
Think of those beaches, with land and sea mines, densely strewn with barbed wire (even into deep water), with machine-guns arranged so that every yard of sand and water would be swept, by direct, indirect, and cross fire, with a hose-like stream of bullets ; think of thousands of fieldpieces and howitzers ready, ranged, and set, so that they would spray the sand and whip the sea, merely by the pulling of triggers.
Think of a force larger than the intended landing-party entrenched, with their rifles loaded and their range known, behind all manner of overhead cover and wire entanglements, and then remember that you are one of a party that has to step ashore there from an open boat, and kill, or drive far enough inland, these enemy soldiers to enable your stores to be landed so that when you have defeated him, you may not perish of starvation. Far more than at Balaclava did these young men from ' down under ' walk ' right into the jaws of death, into the mouth of hell ! ' And the Turks waited till they were well within the jaws before they opened fire.
No one in the landing force knew where the Turks were, and the Turks did not fire on us until we got to the zone which they had so prepared that all might perish that entered there. They could see us clearly, the crowded open boats were targets of naked flesh that could not be missed. Was there ever a more favourable setting for a massacre ? The Turks in burning Armenian villages with their women and children had not easier tasks than that entrenched army.
Our men in the boats were too crowded to use their rifles, and the boats were too close in for the supporting warships to keep down the fire from those trenches. How was any one left alive ? By calculation of the odds not one man should have set foot on that shore. Make a successful landing, enabling us to occupy a portion of that soil ! What an impossible task !
To the men in those boats and the men watching from the ships, it appeared as if not merely the expedition had failed, but that not a man of the landing force would survive. Boats were riddled with bullets and stink - other boats drifted helplessly as there were not enough alive to row them - men jumped into the bullet-formed spray to swim ashore but were caught in the barbed wire and drowned. Who could expect success, but it nevertheless happened ! The Turks were sure that we could not land, yet we did. Not only did those boys set foot on those beaches, but the remnant of that landing-party drove the Turks out of their entrenchments up cliffs five hundred feet high, and entrenched themselves on the summit.
How did they do it ? No one knows ; the men who were there don't know themselves. Did heaven intervene ? Perhaps spiritual forces may sometimes paralyse material. It must he that right has physical might, else why didn't the Kaiser get to Paris ? Mathematics and preparedness were on his side ; by all reasoning Germany ought to have overwhelmed the world in a few months, with the superiority of her armament, but she didn't. The Turks ought to have kept us off the Peninsula, by all laws of logic and arithmetic, and they didn't. I really think the landing succeeded because those boys thought they had failed.
They must have believed themselves doomed they could see that there were too few to accomplish what was even doubtful when the force was intact. When they were on the shore they must have felt that it was impossible that they could be taken off again. All the time more were falling, and soon it seemed that every last man must be massacred. They made up their minds that, at any rate, they would get a few of the swine before they went.
Every man believed that in the end he must be killed, but determined to sell his life as dearly as possible, and that made them the supermen that could not be 'held back.' A whole platoon would be cut down, but somehow one or two would manage to get into the trench, where, of necessity, it was hand-to-hand work, and with laughing disregard of the odds would lay out a score of the enemy and send the others fleeing before them, who would yell out that they were fighting demons from hell.
After the confusion in the boats, and from the fact that in most cases companies were entirely without officers, there was no forming up for charges indeed, there were no orders at all, but every man knew that he could not but be doing the right thing every time he killed a Turk, so they just took their rifle and bayonet in their naked hands and went to it. There was no line of battle, it was just here, there, and everywhere, khaki-clad, laughing demons, seeking Turks to kill.
Never was there fighting like this. All that day it went on. On the beach, up the cliff, in the gullies, miles inland were men fighting. It was not a battle ; it would have made a master of tactics weep And tear his hair, but these man-to-man fights kept on. Many were shot from behind, many were wounded and fell in places where no one would find them - some fighting on, went in a circle and found themselves back on the beach again.
However, at nightfall some had begun to dig a shallow line of trenches, well inland across the cliff. Single men and small groups of them, not finding any more Turks where they were, fell back into this ditch and helped deepen it.
Fresh Turks were massing for counter-attack, and soon came on with fury, but we were something like an army now, and although the line to be shortened it never broke. The landing had been made good, the impossible had been achieved. But there were many who died strange deaths, many left way in, helpless, who could not he succoured - many whom the fighting lust led so far that when they thought of seeking their comrades they found the barrier of a Turkish army now intervening. Strange, unknown duels and combats were fought that day. Unknown are the 'Bill-Jims' who killed scores with naked hand -there were many such. Though we beat the Turk with the odds in his favour, yet this day and afterward he earned our respect as a fighting mail.
East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great judgment Seat.
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho' they -come from the ends of the Earth.'
The Australian had proved himself the fiercest fighter of the world. . . . As one naval officer remarked, they fought not as men but devils. Many have said that much of the loss of life was needless, that had the Australians kept together and waited for orders not so many would have been cut off in the bush. It was true that the impetuosity of many took them too far to return, but it was that very quality that won the day.
They did not return, but they drove the Turk before them and enabled others to dig in before he could re-form. You would have to go back to mediaeval times to parallel this fighting. There was impetuosity, dash, initiative, berserker rage, fierce hand-to-hand fighting, every man his own general.
These were not the only qualities of the Australian fighting men, but these alone could have succeeded on that day. When the time came for evacuation of those hardly won and held trenches these same troops gave evidence of the possession of the opposite attributes of coolness, silence patience, co-ordination ; every man acting as part of a single unit, under control of a single will - which is discipline.
Holding On & Nibbling
THERE are people who think that the Australian dash petered out with that one supreme effort of landing. We had achieved the impossible in landing - why did we not in the many months we were there, do the comparatively easy thing and advance ? Surely, now that we had stores , equipment and artillery, we could more easily drive the Turks out of their trenches. So many seem to think that so much was done on that first day, and so little thereafter.
But the Peninsula is not a story of mere impetuosity and dash, it is a story of endurance as well. As a matter of fact, those eight months of holding were as great a miracle as the landing. There is a limit to the physical powers even of supermen. These men were not content with the small strip of ground that they held, and they did attack and beat the Turks opposing them again and again, as soon as a Turkish army was beaten there ever another fresh one to take its place.
The Turks could not attack us at one time with an outnumbering us by ten to one, not because they had not the troops, but because there was not room enough. As a matter of fact, that little army (only reinforced enough to fill up the gaps) defeated five Turkish armies, each one larger than its own. Remember, too, that the Turks were always better equipped and supplied-it was so easy with their chief city of Constantinople just within ' coo-ee.'
Our little army had to be supplied with every single thing over thousands of miles of water. General Hamilton said the navy was father and mother to us, and when it is remembered that every cartridge, every ounce of food, every drop of water, every splinter of firewood had to be brought by the ships, it will be seen that we could not have existed a single day without their aid.
The Turks said often enough that they would push us into the sea - they continually called on Allah to aid them - we were only a handful after all ; we only held a few hundred acres of their filthy soil, but on to that we clung, sometimes by the skin of our teeth. And it was the weather, not the Turks, that made us leave in the end.
Ever and anon we alarmed the Turk by nibbling a piece nearer to his sacred city. Never did men live under worse conditions than in those eight months of hell, yet never was an army so cheerful 'Bill-Jim,' which is Australia's name for her soldier-boy, always makes the best of things, and so made himself at home on that inhospitable shore.
The first thing he decided needed alteration was his uniform. Breeches and puttees were not only too hot but they closed in the leg and afforded cover to the lively little fellow who lives indiscriminately on the soldiers of both sides. As each soldier began to trim his uniform to his own idea of comfort, it was soon, in very reality, a 'ragtime' army. Some felt that puttees were a nuisance - everybody realised that the breeches were too long, but differed on the point as to how much too long.
Some would clip off six inches off the end, others a foot, and others would have been as well covered without the article at all. Almost everybody decided that a tunic as useless, but some extremists threw away shirt and singlet as well. A Turkish army order was captured which stated that the Australians were running short of supplies, as they made one pair of trousers do for three men. Evidently Johnny Turk could not understand the Australian's disregard for conventionality and his taking to nakedness when it meant comfort and there were no women within hundreds of miles to make him conscious of indecency.
Clothes that couldn't washed wouldn't keep one's body clean and became the home of an army that had no interest the fight for democracy, lice. The Australian showed a practical common sense in discarding as much as possible - but, say, those boys would have caused some amusement if drawn up for review !
Water was certainly the most precious thing. There never was enough to drink, but even then there are always men who would rather wash than drink, and to see these men having their bath in jam-tin just showed how habit is, in many of us, stronger than common sense, for there was never water enough to more than spread out the dirt or liquefy it so that it would fill up the pores. Others who must bathe adopted a more effective but more dangerous proceeding.
Of course, the sea was there - surely plenty of water for washing ! just so, but this bath was pretty unhealthy, for it was practically always whipped by shrapnel and you went in at the risk of your life. Some of the best swimmers used to say it was all right so long as you dived whenever you heard the screech of a shell-that the shrapnel pellets did not penetrate the water more than a few inches. Most men did without either of this choice of baths, and used a scraper. It was evidenced on the Peninsula that one of the greatest of civilisers is a razor.
By necessity few could shave, and you soon could not recognise the face of your best churn as it hid itself beneath a growth of some reddish fungus. Really handsome features were quite blotted out, and it is now evident to me why, in civilised life, we all, so gladly go through the conventional daily torture of face-scraping.
Thirst is not a thing to joke about, however, and there were times when the allowance of water was not enough to wash down a half-dozen bites, and the food would stick in one's throat.
There was generally enough food but mighty little variety, except just before the evacuation. when stores had to be eaten to save them being taken away or destroyed. It is all very well to say a man will eat anything when he is hungry, but you can get so tired of bully-beef and biscuit marmalade-jam that your stomach simply will not digest it. Machonochie's, which was sort of canned Irish stew, wasn't bad, but there wasn't always more than enough of that to supply the quartermasters. Still there were some great chefs on the Peninsula, men who had got their training as cooks in shearers' camps, where anything badly cooked would be thrown at their heads. It was marvellous how some- of them could disguise a bully-beef stew, and I have been told of men coming to blows over the merits of their respective ' company cooks.'
There were more flies on the Peninsula than there was sand on the shore, and they fought us persistently for every atom of food. Getting a mouthful was a hard day's work, for all the time you had to fight away the swarms, and no matter how quick you were with your fork, you rarely got a piece that hadn't been well walked over, and I didn't do to think where those flies might have been walking just previously.
No army ever had a better directed sanitary department, but, no matter how clean we kept our trenches, the Turks just ' loved ' dirt and ' worshipped ' flies, and their trenches were only ten yards away in one place, and in no place were they far enough to make it a record-breaking aerial flight for a fly. Perhaps it was because they were all Turkish bred that the flies did us so much harm, for they certainly accounted for more deaths than the shells and bullets. Dysentery was rife all the time, and there were time's when not one man was well. If the doctors had known enough they would have put a barrage of disinfectant in front of our trenches. We put up sandbags to stop the bullets, but no one had devised a method to stop those winged emissaries of death.
Those who died from lead-poisoning were but a score to the hundreds who died of fly-poisoning.
This is but a little of what holding on meant to that little force. The Turk was not only a brave, but a ' wily ' fighter-snipers were always giving trouble, and one never knew from which direction the next shot was coming. Men with ' nerves ' declared that our line must be full of spies-sometimes a shot would come through the door of a dug-out facing out to sea. These snipers were certainly brave fellows-some were found covered with leaves-one was found in a cleft in the rock where he must have been lowered by his comrades and he could not get out without their help. In the early days some of the Turkish officers who could talk English even took the extreme risk of mixing among the troops and passing false orders.
One of these spies was only discovered through misuse of a well-known Australian slang-word. No one in the Australian army but knows the meaning of ' dinkum.' Its meaning is something the same as the American for 'on the level' !' and is probably the commonest word in the Australian soldier's vocabulary. He will ask : ' Is that dinkum news ? ' State that, 'He's a dinkum fellow!' and so on. Well, one day a man in an Australian officer's uniform spoke to some officers in a certain sector of trench, and said he brought a message from head-quarters.
He was getting a lot of information and seemed to know several officers' names, but he bungled over one of them, and on the officer he was speaking to inquiring, ' Is that dinkum ?' he answered Yes, that's his name ! ' There was no further investigation, he was shot dead on the spot. The officer who did it may have been hasty, but there can be no doubt that justice was done, for he must have been either a Turk or a German and had already found out too much.
The Evacuation of Anzac
WITHOUT warning, winter came down upon us. No one guessed he was so near. We were still in our summer lack of clothing, and were not prepared for cold weather, when like a wolf on the fold the blizzard came down upon us. This was the worst enemy those battered troops had yet encountered. Hardly any of those boys had ever seen snow, and now they were naked in the bitterest cold. There were more cases of frost-bite than there were of wounds in the whole campaign.
More had their toes and fingers eaten off by Jack Frost than shells had amputated. In those open, unprotected trenches, in misery such as they had never dreamed could be, the lads from sunny Australia stood to their posts. When the snow melted the trenches fell in and Turk and Anzac stood exposed to each other's fire, but both were fighting a common enemy, and so hard went this battle with them as to compel a truce in the fight of man against man.
Soon it was evident that our final objective capturing the Narrows could not be accomplished with the forces we had. Directly the winter gales would arrive, and on those exposed beaches no stores could be landed. We had to leave and leave quickly, or starve to death. So the evacuation was planned.
No achievement in military history was better conceived or more faithfully carried out. Here was scope for inventive genius, and many were the devices used to bluff the Turk. We schooled him in getting used to long periods of silence. At first he was pretty jumpy and could not understand the change, when the men who had always given him two for one now received his fire without retaliating. After a while he decided that as we were quite mad there was no accounting for our behaviour. Then we scared him some more by appearing to land fresh troops.
As a matter of fact, a thousand or so would leave the beach at night and a few hundred return in the daylight under the eyes of the Turkish aeroplanes, causing them to report concentration of more troops. Stores were taken out to the ships by night, and the empty boxes brought back and stacked on the beaches during the day. It must have appeared as if we were laying in for the winter.
There were many inventive brains of high quality working at great pressure during all the days of holding on, and there is no doubt the Turks were completely bluffed. When the remaining stores were fired after being well soaked with Gasolene, the Turkish artillery evidently thought they had made lucky hit and they poured shells into the flames, completed for us the work of destruction. I doubt if they even found the name of a Chicago packing-house on a bully-beef case, when next day they wandered curiously through the abandoned settlement that for many months had been peopled by the bronzed giants from farthest south.
The last men to leave the actual trenches were the remnant of the heroic band that were the first to land. They requested the honour of this post of danger and it could not be refused them. They must have expected that their small company would be still further thinned ; but this place of miracles still had another in store, as the evacuation was accomplished from Anzac itself without a casualty.
The last party to leave the beach was a hospital unit-chaplain, doctors, and orderlies. It was intended that they should remain to care for the wounded, though they would necessarily fall into the hands of the Turks. It was not feared that they would be ill-treated, for all the reports we had of prisoners in the hands of the Turks went to show that they were well cared for. In this as in other respects the Turk showed himself to be much more civilised than the German.
It was a pleasant surprise to be able to greet again these comrades, who but a few minutes before we had commiserated on their hard luck ; for they came off in the last boats, there being no wounded to require their services. The padre, who was a Roman Catholic priest, said that he missed the chance of a lifetime and would now probably never know what the inside of a harem was like.
They were sad hearts that looked back to those fading shores. It almost seemed as if we were giving up a bit of Australia to the enemy. Those acres had been taken possession of by Australian courage, baptized with the best of the country's blood, and now held the sacred dust of the greatest of our citizens, whose title to suffrage had been purchased by the last supreme sacrifice. Never were men asked to do a harder thing than this to leave the bones of their comrades to fall into alien hands. These were men white of face and with clenched fists that filed past those wooden crosses, and few who did not feel shame at the desertion.
Some there were who whispered to the spirits hovering near an appeal for understanding and forgiveness. They wondered how the worshippers of the Crescent would treat the dead resting beneath the symbols that to them presented an accursed infidel faith. There are cravens in Australia who suggest that she has done more than her share in this struggle, but while one foot of soil that has been hallowed by Australian blood remains in the hands of the enemy the man who would withhold one man or one shilling is not only no true Australian but no true man - a dastard and a traitor.
When peace shall dawn and the Turk shall heed the voice of United Democracy as it proclaims with force, ' Thou shalt not oppress, nor shalt thou close the gates of these straits again ! ' then shall visitors from many lands wander through these trenches and marvel what kind of men were they that held them for so long against such odds, and gaze at the honeycombed cliff where twentieth century men lived like cave-dwellers, and sang and joked more than the abiders in halls of luxury.
To-dav the name Anzac is the envy of all other soldiers, and while none would want to live that life again, every man who was there rejoices in the memory of the association and comradeship of those days. Read the Anzac Book and you will see that there was much talent and many a spark of genius in that army. But only those who were there know of the many busy brains that worked overtime devising improvements in the weapons that were available, and ever seeking to invent contrivances that added to comfort.
Many of the inventions are forgotten, but some are in use in France to-day, notably the ' periscope rifle ' or 'sniper-scope', and the ' thumb periscope,' which is no thicker than a man's finger. It was found that our box-periscopes were always being smashed by the Turkish snipers ; so one ingenious brain collared an officer's cane and scooped out the centre. With tiny mirrors top and bottom, it was a very effective periscope, and soon most officers were minus their canes. Some very good bombs were made from jam-tins with a wad of guncotton, and filled up with all manner of missiles. These improvised bombs were risky to handle, and some men lost their lives through carelessness, though probably there were nearly as many accidents through over-caution.
They would generally be provided with a five-second fuse, and you were supposed to swing three times before throwing. Some men who had not much faith in the time fuse threw the bombs as soon as the spark struck, which gave the Turks time to return them. Both sides played this game of catch, but I think we were the better at it. The way of lighting the fuse was to hold the head of a match on the powder stream drawing the friction-paper across it. This generally caught immediately, but after a while some one introduced the idea of having burning sticks in the trench, and a ' torchman' would pass down the trench lighting each fuse.
One man was not sure that the spark had caught, and began blowing on it, and was surprised when it blew his hand off. We would drop on top of the Turks' bombs a coat or sand-bag, and it was surprising how little damage was done. If you put a sheet of iron on top of one, or a sand-bag full of earth, it would make the explosion very much worse, but loose cloth would spread out and make a spring-cushion by compression of the air above.
There was another use made of empty jam-tins they were tied to our barbed wire, so that if any Turk tried to get through he would make a noise like the cowbells at milking-time. Talking about barbed wire, Johnny Turk played a huge joke on us on one occasion. As the staking down of wire was too risky, we prepared some ' knife-rests (hedges of wire shaped like a knife-rest) and rolled them over our parapet, but opened our eyes in amazement to find in the morning that they had only stopped a few feet from the Turkish trenches. The Turks had sneaked out and tied ropes to them and hauled them over to protect themselves. Thereafter we took care to let Abdul do his own wiring.
Ships That Pass
ALTHOUGH we did not capture the Narrows (that narrow stream of water through which a current runs so swiftly that floating mines are carried down into it faster than the mine-sweepers could gather them up), this did not prevent at least one representative of the navy from passing that barrier. This was the Australian submarine, A2. It may not be generally known that Australia had two submarines at the outbreak of war. These would appear antediluvian alongside the latest underwater monster, but, nevertheless, one of these accomplished a feat such as no German submarine has ever approached.
The first of our submarines met an unknown fate as it disappeared somewhere near New Guinea. There has been much speculation as to what happened to it, but its size can be guessed at when I mention that a naval officer told rife he thought it probable that a shark had eaten it. A2 was the same type, but it achieved lasting fame in that it passed under the mine-field, through the Narrows, across the Sea of Marmora, and into the port of Constantinople. Right between the teeth of the Turkish forts and fleet it sank seven Turkish troopships and returned safely.
A certain town in Australia that was called ' Germanton ' has been rechristened ' Holbrook ' in honour of the commander of this gallant little craft.
Every one has heard the story of the destruction of the Emden by the Australian cruiser Sydney, but it is worth bringing to notice that the captain of the Emden was of a different type from the pirates who have made the German sailor the most loathed creature that breathes. It is hard to believe that he was a German, for it seems incredible that a German sailor would refrain from sinking a ship because there was a woman on board. One can imagine that he would be ostracized by his brother officers of the wardroom, for he actually had accompanying him a spare ship on which to put the crews of the ships he sank.
One can hardly imagine him sitting at mess with the much-decorated murderer of the women and
children of the Lusitania, and it is the latter who the popular hero in Germany. There are none
more ready than the Australian soldiers to show chivalry to an honourable foe, and when the
Sydney brought Captain Mueller and the crew of Emden among the troopships these prisoners were cheered again and again.
They could not understand their reception, but the lads from Australia admired these brave men for their plucky fight and clever exploits. Would they, had they not been captured early in the war, have changed become like the vile, cowardly sharks that infest the seas in U-boats ?
The Great War is writing history on such a large scale that the old classic stories of heroism and devotion to duty will be forgotten by the next generation. The story of the Birkenhead has always been considered the highest illustration of discipline and steadiness in the face of death evinced by any troops, but the citizen soldiers from the young Australian democracy have in this war given on two occasions proof that they possessed the same qualities.
The Southland has been written in letters of gold on the pages of Australia's history. When the sneaking U-boat delivered its deadly blow in the entrails of this crowded troopship, there was no more excitement than if the alarm-bugles had summoned them to an ordinary parade. Some of the boys fell in on deck without their life-belts, but were sent below to get them. They had to go, many of them, to the fourth deck, but they scorned to show anxiety by proceeding at any other pace than a walk. It was soon evident that there were not enough boats left to take all off, and so none would enter them and leave their comrades to go down with the ship. They began to sing ' Australia Will Be There'
Rally round the banner of your country,
Take the field with brothers o'er the foam
On land or sea, wherever you be,
Keep your eye on Germany.
For England home and beauty
Have no cause to fear
Should old acquaintance be forgot
No-no-no, no, no Australia will be the-re-re-re!
Australia will be there !'
Some one called out, 'Where and the answer came from many throats-' In hell, in five minutes !' and it looked like it. But nothing in a future life could hold any terrors for the man who had campaigned during a summer in Egypt., In the end volunteers were taken into the stoke-hole and the Southland was beached. The colonel was drowned and there were a few other casualties, but most escaped without a wetting, so what looked like an adventure turned out to be a pretty tame affair after all. But Australia will ever remember how those boys stood fast with the dark waters of death washing their feet and, like Stoics, waited calmly for whatever Fate would send them. This epic of Australian fortitude was written in September 1915, and is part of the Dardanelles story.
But the, latest troops from Australia are of the same heroic stuff as those who wrote the name 'Anzac' with their blood on the Gallipoli beach. For the Southland incident was duplicated in almost every particular on the Ballarat in April 1917. This story was enacted in the waters of the English Channel, and there were no casualties, for the work of rescue by torpedo-boats was made easy, as each man calmly waited his turn and enlivened the monotony meanwhile with ragtime, and again and again did the strains of ' Australia Will Be There !' ring out over the waters.
As they sang ' So Long, Letty,' many substituted their own Christian names, and it looked as if it might be 'so long' in reality. But they knew that to an Australian girl there would be no 'sadness of farewell ' when she realised that her lover had been carried heavenward by the guardian angel that waits to bear upward the soul of a hero.
' Big Lizzie' (the Queen Elizabeth) was for many months queen of the waters round Gallipoli. Her tongue boomed louder than any other, and it was always known when she spoke. She was the latest thing in dreadnoughts then, just commissioned, and the largest ship afloat. Though since that time the British navy has added several giants that dwarf even her immense proportions.
The boys in the trenches and on the beach at Anzac never failed to thrill with pride as they heard her baying forth her iron hate against the oppressor. We knew that wherever her ton weight shells fell there would be much weeping and gnashing of teeth among the enemy. We readily believed all the stories told of her prowess, no matter how impossible they seemed. No one doubted even when we heard that she had sunk a boat in the Sea of Marmora twenty-seven miles away, firing right over a mountain.
She was there before our eyes an epitome of the might and power of the British navy that had policed the seas of the world, sweeping them clear of the surface pirate and also confining the depredation, of the underwater assassin, so that all nations, except the robber ones, might trade in safety.
How true it is that the British navy has been the guarantor of the freedom of the seas, so that even
in British ports over the whole wide world all nations should have equality of trade ! Never has this power been used selfishly : take for instance, the British dominions of the South Seas, where American goods can be sold cheaper than those of Britain, for the shorter distance more than compensates for the small preference in tariff. The most unprotected coast of the American continent has been kept free of invaders ; its large helpless cities are unshelled, because 'out there' in the North Sea the British navy maintains an eternal vigilance.
After some valuable battleships were sent to the bottom by the German submarines it was realised that ' Big Lizzie' was too vulnerable and valuable to be kept in these waters ; so in the later months her place was taken by some weird craft that excited great curiosity among the sailor-men. These were the ' monitors,' which were just floating platforms for big guns. They were built originally for the rivers of South America, but it was discovered that their shallow draught made them impervious to torpedo attack ; and as they are able to get close in shore, their big guns made havoc of the Turkish defences.
They do not travel at high speed and appear to waddle a good deal, but they have been most invaluable right Along, and were of great assistance lately to the Italians in holding up the German drive. They have been used also around Ostend, and are of prime importance wherever the flank of an army is on the sea. I have picked up portions of shells and seen the shrapnel lying like hail in sand-hills in Arabia (more than twenty miles from the Suez Canal, which was the nearest waterway).
We also passed some other amazing-looking craft which were being towed down the Red Sea. They looked like armoured houseboats, and were for use up the Tigris. I should not like to have been boxed up in one, for it looked as if they would have to use a can-opener to get you out, and it did not appear to me as though the sides were bulletproof. But trust the Admiralty to know what they are doing ! Pages could be filled with the mere cataloguing of the various kinds of ships used by the navy in this war, and I am told that these river ' tanks ' were the prime factor in the advance in Mesopotamia.
A marine court would decide that the River Clyde was not a ship at all but a fortress. There was a naval engagement in this war when two ships were refused their share of the prize money for the capture of German ships because they were anchored, the sea lawyers decreeing that they were forts.
But the old, sea-beaten collier River Clyde deserves to be remembered as a ship that has passed, for before she grounded on the beach she carried in her womb as brave a company of heroes as have ever emblazoned their deeds on a nation's roll of honour. The wooden horse that carried Ulysses and the heroic Greeks into the heart of ancient Troy did not enclose a braver band that were these modern youths shut within the iron sides of the old tramp steamer which bore them into the camp of their enemies somewhere near the supposed site of the Homeric city.
Doors had been cut in the sides of the old steamer, and lighters were moored alongside with launches. When she ran aground these lighters were towed round so as to form a gangway to the shore, and the troops poured down on to them. The Turks were as prepared in this case to repel an attack as at Anzac, and held their fire until the ship was hard and fast. They then had a huge target at pointblank range on which to concentrate leaden hail from machine-guns and rifles aided by the shells from the Asiatic forts. Few lived in that eager first rush-some jumped into the sea to wade or swim, but were shot in the water or drowned under weight of their equipment.
Again and again the lighters broke from their moorings, and many brave swimmers defied death to secure them. One boy won the Victoria Cross for repeatedly attempting to carry a rope in his mouth to the shore. But the crosses earned that day if they were awarded would give to the glorious Twenty-Ninth Division a distinction that none would begrudge them. The regiments of the Hampshires, Dublin, and Munster Fusiliers added in a few hours more glory to their colours than past achievements had given even such proud historic names as theirs.
The landing at Cape Helles and the wooden horse- are beacons of the Gallipoli campaign that - shine undimmed alongside the Australian-New Zealand landing at Anzac which, as a rising sun, proclaimed the dawn of the day of their nationhood.
Another 'ship that passed,' and in its passing wrought havoc on the enemy was one too small to support a man. It was a tiny raft, and it was propelled by one-man power, who swam ashore from a destroyer, towing this craft which was to bluff the Turks into believing that a whole army was descending upon them.
The man was Lieutenant Freyberg, and on the raft he carried the armament that was to keep a large Turkish force standing to arms at Bulair (the northern-most neck of the Peninsula) when they might have been preventing the landing on the other beaches. The weapons this gallant young officer used were merely some flares which he lit at intervals along the beach, and then went naked inland to overlook the army he was attacking.
Leaving them to endure for the rest of that night the continual strain of a momentarily expected attack, he then swam out to sea, for five miles, searching anxiously for the destroyer that was to pick him up. After several more hours of floating he was sighted by the rescuing ship and
taken on board, exhausted, and half dead. The Turkish papers stated that ' the strong attack at Bulair was repulsed with heavy losses by our brave defenders.'
This hero, who is a New Zealander, and now Brigadier-General Freyberg, V.C., is well-known in California and was at Leland-Stanford University.