On Active Service

 

By

 

John Harold Falconer

 

 

Dedicated to

 

“My Loved Ones at Home”

 

Ypres, Belgium

 

15th Oct. 1916

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Index

 

Chapter I                                 In Australia

 

Poem                                       And That’s Australia

 

Chapter II                                On board H.M.T Ceramie

 

Chapter III                               Egypt

 

Chapter IV                               Into the unknown future

 

Chapter V                                Gallipoli

 

Poem                                       For Love and Empire

 

Chapter VI                               On board S.S. Canada

 

Chapter VII                              Furlough camp again

Chapter VIII                             The evacuation

 

Chapter IX                               On Lemnos Island

 

Chapter X                                Egypt (continued)

 

Chapter XI                               France

 

Chapter XII                              Modern Warfare

 

Poem                                       Gone

 

Chapter XIII                             Reflections

 

Poem                                      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PREFACE

 

Belgium, 15th October 1916

 

In this booklet I am trying to convey to my readers some of the experiences, sights and emotions, which have been my lot to pass through, during the time I was sergeant in the Australian Infantry.

 

I am not or do not profess to be a writer of any merit, so I hope my readers will overlook the mistakes in composition etc and understand that this booklet is only intended to brighten, and in some measure bring my Father, Brother, and myself closer to our home folk.

 

It is not a geography of any of the countries my experiences will be about.  In fact, I don’t intend saying nothing else, other than the names of the countries and a few towns which I sincerely hope the censor will pardon my mentioning and overlook them.

 

 

CHAPTER I

"IN AUSTRALIA"

I was standing on the high cliffs one Saturday afternoon in November 1914 which surrounds the forts of South Head, Sydney Harbour, looking down at the picturesque sight of an 18 ft sailing race.  Intermingled with the sailing boats were motor launches, ferry boats on their way to and from the pleasure resorts of Manly, Watsons Bay, The Spit etc.  The sea was calm, the sun, bright and warm, and I was content with life in general.  Suddenly my attention was arrested by the shrill and continuous whistle of the sirens of half a thousand water craft of all sizes, together with this, the bands of the ferry boats struck up patriotic airs, and handkerchiefs were being waved by the thousands.  I was wakened from my reverie, by a crowd of my fellow comrades, who were with me in camp at South Head.  We were in the 38th Infantry, in which I held the rank of Sergeant.  Our regiment was then guarding the South Head Forts.

 

After arguing some time as to the probable reason for all this excitement, our eyes turned to three big liners coming up stream.  I watched them closely for some time and then it dawned on me as to their nature.  They were troopships laden with our own 2nd Contingent.  By this time they were almost opposite us and were very close in to us.  Our regimental buglers doubled down and as the three troopships sailed quietly by, played the general salute.  The cheering was deafening and long; after my comrades had returned to their tents, I sat down on the grass and thought.  My thoughts were somewhat mixed, and when I finally came to the conclusion that I would enlist, my resolution was somewhat shattered by the fact that I was only 19 years old and that I could not enlist until my apprenticeship had finished or even if that fact was doubtful I knew that I would have to obtain my Father's consent.  Quite undecided I went up to the Mess for tea, and then duties took my mind off the war and the possibility of my enlisting.  A few days later we demobilized and I returned home and I wrote.

 

Everything went smoothly for a few weeks, when owing to my thick headedness and senselessness my apprenticeship was broken off, for which I have never been a scrap sorry, and I was left to earn my bread and butter as a tradesman in engineering after only three years apprenticeship.

 

The difficulty was soon decided for me by my regiment being mobilized again, and we went to garrison South Head Forts once more.  After being there for six weeks, it dawned on me quite suddenly, that I was now free to enlist, providing I obtained my Dad's consent.  The following day Sunday, found me in the Watson’s Bay ferry on my way home, where I arrived in time for tea, much to the surprise of my home-folk.  All the next week, I thought the matter out in every detail saying nothing to those at home.

 

After a heated discussion with a friend I finally decided to ask Dad's permission that same day.  As we neared my home I saw Dad, my Aunt, and sister, with some of their friends and my brother Arch on the front verandah.  Feeling somewhat dubious I went and buttonholed Dad right then, and put the matter straight before him.  Imagine my pleasure and surprise, when he, after giving me some good advice, and putting my future after the war before me, told me he would not stand in my way.  I can just imagine you all now, when I told you my decision.  How at first you wouldn't believe me, and then when you realized that I was not joking how you didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  You all know what happened after that, when I got Dad's written permission, how George Ritchie, Harold Williamson and myself went up to Victoria Barracks, and after passing the required tests went into camp at Liverpool on the 8th March 1915.  In the depot at Liverpool I straight away was given the temporary rank of sergeant, while at my recommendation both George and Harold, were given the acting ranks of corporals.  My word how ambitious I was in those days, and in fact right through my elementary stage of service in the A.I.F.  How this fine feeling was crushed will come in later chapters in this book.

 

I will only run over lightly the happy days and memories of those times in Liverpool Camp.  About three weeks later, the company to which I was attached in the training depot was split up to fill up the 5th Bgd., that was then being equipped to leave Australia.  Trent O'Donnell who was our O.C. in V.Coy. took me as a sergeant in A.Coy. of the 18th Batt. and also George Ritchie as a corporal and Harold who was not at all ambitious as a private.  A few days prior to these happenings my eldest brother Les had enlisted and when I was finally settled in A.Coy. of the 18th Batt.  I obtained a transfer there for Les from the depot.  The four of us were together in this Company until about three weeks before we sailed from Sydney, when after the examination for sergeants, which I passed, I was transferred to D..Coy of the 18th Batt.

 

 

The bustle and excitement of the following four days would take a book in itself to tell, but I cannot skip by the 23rd June when my Aunties Min, Jo and Fan, sister and brother and cousins came up to Liverpool to wish me goodbye, God speed, and a safe return.  I was on guard as you remember and there out on the grass, in front of the guard tent, we had tea which consisted of luxuries which I have tasted nothing to equal since.  I will remember when Uncle Fred called both Les and I apart, so as Dad could not see him giving us some smokes.  The boys on guard enjoyed the ample left over of our feed and even today the very very few who are left sometimes remind me of that evening.  Personally I shall never forget that evening and the one following when my Father came to bid me goodbye.  The camp was all hustle and excitement, but I managed to get away from duty for a couple of hours, and when the train was leaving Liverpool station I watched with tears in my eyes, my Dad whisked quietly away.

 

The following day was full of bustle and excitement.  Reveille went at 5am and after falling in, in the pitch dark and cold morning, we marched to and entrained at Liverpool Station about 8am.

 

On our arrival at Sydney, the whistle of the trains in the yards was terrific.  But more was to follow.  Everything was planned to be carried out in a regimental manner but what hearts of even the most cold hearted of Officers could stay the outward show of love by our citizens of Sydney that morning. It was magnificent and never will I or anybody else that was there that morning forget it.  I can still follow everything that

happened from our departure from the Central Station until we were finally barred from our dear ones and friends, down at Woolloomooloo wharf.  Just think could a man 19 years old be prouder than I was with the knowledge of the beautiful love of my home-folk, relations and friends.

 

Then again before I close this chapter I embarked on the troopship, the youngest sergeant in the 18th Batt. under Colonel Chapman V.D. with Major Macpherson my Company Commander, and with the best set of Officers and men, I think it was possible to organise together for Active Service.  The embarkation took place at about lpm on the afternoon of the 25th June 1915.

 

 

 

 

AND THAT'S AUSTRALIA

 

All in the fun, each mother's son

Useful as Useful can be,

Soldiers each one, brown with the sun

Trained boys from over the sea,

 

Right in the thick of the fight are they,

Always as happy as "cornstalks" we say,

Laughing and joking with Death, come what may,

Into the scrum and never away

Are the lads who Die whilst they shout hurray!

 

Tom E. Limmins

6th Royal Barricks

London

Oct 1915

 

 

(Capt Tom E Limmins was my neighbour in St Georges Hospital, London)

 

 

 

CHAPTER II

 

"ON BOARD H.M.T. CERAMIC - TROOPSHIP A.40"

 

The "Ceramic" is, if not the largest vessel that has entered Sydney Harbour, one of the biggest.  She is 18,000 tons in weight and can do 18 knots an hour.  We arrived on board about Ipm and by 3pm we were all settled in our places.  After the inspection to see that everything was satisfactory on Board, we were allowed up on deck, to see the last of Sydney Heads.  A pretty sight was to be seen from the deck.  Travelling round and round in circles were numerous launches and ferry boats laden with friends and relations of those on Board.  At 5pm we booked anchor and commenced our journey.  From my coign of vantage right up on the top of the rigging of the aft mast, I turned my face toward home and a lump rose in my throat as we sailed silently out of the Heads.

 

As we sailed away from the Heads and we dipped into the darkness of my first night outside the Heads, a strange thought flashed through my mind which afterwards turned out to be a sordid fact.  It was this.  Oh well! they can do whatever they like with me now I suppose, and I can't object, I must just do it.  However, the feeling of depression soon left me and I went down to my men, to see how they were fairing before going to tea.  I found everything O.K. and then went to look for my own quarters, which I found on the second class passenger’s saloon.  They were real decent and our meals turned out to be a big surprise; nearly every meal we had during the month’s voyage was either a three or four course meal.  The men too, I am glad to say, had nothing to growl about as regards their meals and sleeping quarters.

 

We quickly fell in to the routine of life on board a troopship and everything went well for some time.  Our Regimental band was beautiful to hear of an early morning or an evening, playing all the latest airs, both comic and sentimental.  Our routine consisted of early morning parade of physical exercises, then breakfast followed by a parade in the morning of rifle exercises or bayonet fighting.  After dinner parades were held daily, with the exception of Saturdays and Sundays, then we had lectures consisting of first aid, military work and life in Egypt.  Sunday mornings and evenings were held Church Services, which were welcomed on board.

 

The trip round the Australian Coast was beautiful.  We arrived at Melbourne about midday on Sunday, 24th June but only stopped for about 2 hours outside the Heads to drop and pick up mail.  After leaving Melbourne we encountered rough weather going through the Bight, but very few were sick.  Once through the Bight we had fine weather all the rest of the journey although it gradually became hotter and hotter.  Amusement and sports were encouraged on board and there were some exciting boxing matches and tug-of-wars held, as well and some tip top concerts.  The day came when we had to cross the equator, and as there had been a lot of trouble takento make a success of the old time fabled Father Neptune, we, all on board, looked forward to some good sport.  We were not disappointed.  A canvas tub was rigged up on the forward well deck and

into this Officers as well as men were ducked, after first being white-washed all over.  The event turned out to be a great success and was appreciated by all on Board.

 

 

Happiness reigned supreme until a hush was passed all over the ship that one of our comrades Sgt Halder of Mosman was dangerously ill in the hospital with double pneumonia. After a long illness poor old Bob succumbed to the fever and died, just as we reached the hottest part of our voyage, the Devils Light in the Red Sea near Aden.  This sad fatality occurred a burial at sea.  A plank was fixed aft of the ship pointing towards the water, then the body after being sewn up in canvas and weighted was laid on the board, and after the burial service had been read by the Padre and to the sound of the General Salute and the Last Post on the bugle, and three volleys from our rifles, the body was slid into the water and its last resting place.  These sad proceedings, cast a gloom all over the ship for a few days after.

 

One morning we were trying to find a cool place to sit on the boat deck, when land ahead was passed from mouth to mouth.  Looking forward eagerly to see what part of the globe we were at, I saw one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.  Out in front rose a great high rugged mountain, surrounded by a thin purple haze.  The sea was calm and deep blue while the sky overhead was cloudless.  Right away on the horizon we espied three warships, and as we neared the land, which we had been told by now was Aden, hundreds of fishing boats came dancing out on the waves to meet us.  They didn't come very close however, but just near enough for us to catch a glimpse of the inhabitants of Aden.  They were niggers and a fine big stamp of men too.

 

Aden was our first stop since leaving Melbourne, nearly three weeks back and we only stayed there one hour awaiting orders.  We went down to dinner and by the time dinner was over, we were well out of sight of Aden.  Four days later we arrived at Port Suez where we pulled up to await our turn to go through the Canal.  We arrived there about 10am and at 4am next morning we started on our way through the Suez Canal.  It was a beautiful trip which lasted about twelve hours arriving at Port Said at 4pm in the afternoon.  During this trip we passed through Indian Camps all along both sides of the Canal and the scenery from start to finish was lovely.  About half way through, we passed a French Man 'O' War, and in honour of our 'Allies' our band struck up the ‘Marseilles' while all on board stood to attention, after which three good Australian cheers answered those of the Frenchmen.

 

Our entrance to Port Said was much the same, as we passed by war ships of all the different Allies.  By dusk we had made fast to a wharf to coal up.  This procedure was rather interesting.  Alongside came eight barges neatly packed with coal and in smaller boats came a couple of hundred 'Gyppos'.  After tying up and running planks from the barges to the coal bunkers down below, these niggers grabbed a basket each, and walked one man per yard in a continuous stream up one plank and down the other on both sides of the ship.  I watched the process for some time and was surprised and highly amused to see what followed.  A chap close to me, happened to drop a cigarette down among the niggers, who were filling baskets.  A wild scramble followed, each nigger trying to get the cigarette.  Of course the lads on board saw this and from all over the ship cigarettes, biscuits, and even money was dropped among the darkies below.  This was very amusing to us, but it did not appear to be to the ganger, because he happened to see the fights between his men, and he ran down the plank, and started to belt into the niggers with a great whip.  This action aroused our sense of

fair play and in a very short space of time, the ganger was being pelted with old boots, old clothes dipped in oil etc.  The darkness spoilt our sport and we retired to bed.

The next morning we sailed away from Port Said and the following day arrived at Alexandria, exactly 28 days from the time we left Sydney, the date being the 23rd July 1915.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER III

 

" EGY PT"

 

 

Our disembarkation took place at 4pm on the afternoon of the 25th.  It was carried out quickly and well and by 5pm we were on the train bound for Heliopolis.  The Egyptian State Railway in ordinary times, must be very pleasant to travel on, but the compartments we found ourselves on, were anything but pleasant.  The only difference between the Ist, 2nd and 3rd Class carriages in my opinion is: the Ist Class are horse trucks, the 2nd Class dog boxes and the 3rd Class pig pens. These trains are called nigger trains. Whilst waiting to start on our journey to Heliopolis we experienced our first look at the rookery of the Egyptian natives. These 'Gyppos' as we invariably term them, are mostly well built men, strong as lions, black as soot and as simple       as a baby. They are the dirtiest creatures physically and morally you could meet anywhere, and the greatest of thieves. In fact thieving in Egypt is a profession with the natives, just like medicine, or astronomy in European countries. It has got to a stage where it is very clever and far surpasses anything in our countries. They have        the heart of a chicken, but on the other hand their temper is awful. I        saw on several occasions, when a nigger had been getting justice served him by our own chaps for his rookery, the natives go stone mad, knock themselves about something cruel. Here is one instance:

 

We were marching along Heliopolis one morning, when a fellow bought some oranges from a Gyppo. He robbed the fellow of a few piastres (a piastre equals 2½) and had been found out. The purchaser upset his basket of oranges, and the chaps downed on them and pinched them.  The nigger when he realized that his fruit was gone, ran off into the desert crying and howling dismally.  The next thing we saw him doing was kneeling down in the sand and throwing sand and rocks up over his head until he was almost buried.  To quieten him, a little chap went across to him and gave him some money.  Of course he was satisfied, but under the circumstances it was the worst possible thing -anyone could do. The good nature of the Australian has spoiled the Egyptian native absolutely.

 

We eventually steamed out of the railway yards of Alexandria and were very soon bowling along at a good speed toward Cairo.  Our interest was aroused by the wonderful irrigation system that we saw.  All along the line was rich country well watered with all kinds of vegetables growing in profusion.  Cotton seems to be their main industry and on two or three occasions, we passed big cotton factories. Darkness soon overtook us and -we went to sleep, as there was nothing to be seen outside.

 

 

About lam we reached a big station where one engine changed ends and we again started away.  This station we were quickly informed ,was Cairo.  About half an hour later, we pulled up at a siding and disembarked.  To the tune of Rule Brittania we marched to the aerodrome camp, Heliopolis, where we arrived about 3am.  Our arrival was evidently expected, for much to our surprise, the tents were already pitched and there was a good cup of tea ready for us.  Owing to the intense heat of that time of the year, troops were not allowed to drill between the hours of 9am and 4pm.  Our first parade was 6am to 9am, the next being 4pm to 7pm.  Our routine consisted of bayonet fighting, trench digging and rout marches, with the ordinary company drill to fill up time with.  We found the dust and heat very objectionable at first, but as the tucker was fairly good, and we had plenty of showers to refresh ourselves with, we were very soon in tip top condition, which resulted in a very small sick parade.  The climate is peculiar in Egypt in this way, that however hot it is in the day time and however dusty, it is always followed by a cool bright night.

 

It was Saturday morning when we arrived in camp, and that afternoon we were granted leave to Cairo.  The aerodrome camp is situated about a mile out on the desert from Heliopolis.  To get to Cairo the quickest way from camp was to walk to Heliopolis and catch the electric railway to Cairo. Our first trip to Heliopolis I shall never forget.  When

about 100 yards away from the town a herd of little Gyppos, both male and female, rushed to meet us, wanting to clean our boots.  Others called out "Gib it bucksheesh".  He had our boots cleaned for half a piastre and by the way, it was the very best clean they had ever got and after breaking away from the mob of Gyppos, we walked through the town.

 

Heliopolis is a beautiful city and the architecture most quaint.  The buildings are pure white and something in a mild form, like the Japanese buildings.  The roads are wide and asphalted, with trees growing down the centre and also both sides.  The beautiful class of buildings so clean and pure looking contrasted vividly with the dirty unkempt niggers.  Very few of the high class Egyptians were to be seen about as their world commences about l0pm each night.  After spending an hour in Heliopolis we intended to go to Cairo.  I boarded the train for this purpose in view and when about half way, Les got on to the train and told me he was going out to see Nurse Campbell.  I cancelled my engagements for the afternoon with my fellow comrades and after apologising for my swift departure, left them and as soon as the train pulled up in Cairo, both Les and I hired a garry and were quickly driven to Gizeriah Hospital, where after a few minutes wait we met nurse who took us into the garden.  Our meeting was so unexpected that poor old nurse could not stop the tears that welled up in her eyes when she told us of the death of her brother Jack.  It was a great shock to me and my heart went out in sympathy to her and also to my poor old Auntie Min.  After looking over the hospital, we both left, promising to call again later on in the week, and returned back to camp not feeling fit for amusement, after the news we had just heard.

 

The next day however, I visited Cairo and was not prepared for what I saw.  Cairo is a filthy city in more ways than one.  From the time of entrance to the time of exit, there is an unhealthy smell which in some places almost suffocates one; this is due to the bad sewerage system.  There are some beautiful sights to be seen in and around Cairo: The Zoo, the Gardens, the Museum and not forgetting the pyramids and Sphinx.

 

On arrival in Cairo in company with some of my pals, we started in a tour round the city.  I again noticed, as in Heliopolis, the absence of the elite of the city.  After standing for some considerable time outside the largest and best hotel in Cairo, "Shepherds", watching the heterogeneous procession of the inhabitants, we winded our way to the lower quarters of Cairo.  I have been even before the war, more or less mixed up with the people of the working classes, as I thought I understood their ways.  I don't know whether the absence of home or relations, or the monotonous life of a solider, which at the best of times has very little charm, drove off soldiers to do the things I saw done that day in Cairo.  I was prepared owing to what I had heard from friends, to see something rough, but I was not expecting to see anything like what I did.  I am only speaking of a very small percentage of our men, but as I am fairly broadminded I was not prejudiced against them, for which as in later chapters of this book you will read, I was very glad.

 

The dwellings in this part of the town were filthy to a degree unbelievable.           If I had not known the love of pure women before I visited Cairo that day, women would have been of very little concern in my future life. But as I did know what love meant the sights in that portion of Cairo only added to my mind, and taught me a different side to life as I had known.  As it is I can only find pity and not contempt for those poor women.  It is a big question and I only wish my pen was more fluent to describe in pleasant phrases the life I have tried to describe.  But as my dictionary is too limited and my composition too poor, I will let this question drop.

 

Owing to a feast of the natives, all the next week, which is called the Ramadam Feast, all the leave to Cairo was stopped, and in consequence our chances of visiting the numerous sights of Egypt were limited.  However the week passed pleasantly enough and the following Sunday a friend and myself visited the Pyramids and Sphinx.  From Cairo you take a tram to the Pyramids, which is about three quarters of an hour run.  The first mile or two is taken up with arguing and trying to convince about thirty niggers that you do not want a guide.  The argument gets tiring in the end and eventually we had to kick a couple of them out of the tram or else pay their fare.  Seeing that we were in earnest, the rest bolted, all except one little chap, who was rather good lookng and who also spoke English fluently.  Liking the look of him we hired him for about five piastres for the afternoon and as soon as he was paid, he started off at 110 to the dozen on the history of Egypt.

 

We arrived at the terminus at last and no sooner had we alighted off the tram, when we were mobbed by a swarm of kids, with donkeys and camels for hire.  Our guide came in, useful then during our negotiations for donkeys. Mounted on a donkey we had rather an amusing race across the sands to the Sphinx and Pyramids.  I had a good look over the different sights of interest, and later on went right into the centre of ‘Cheops’ pyramid, which is the largest of the three.  After taking our boots off we followed our guide through a small opening, into the pitch darkness inside.  The floor and sides being of marble & highly polished owing to the amount of feet passing over them for years was very slippery and with a fairly steep ascent.  An evil foul smell added to the stifling heat, made our journey rather unpleasant until we eventually found ourselves right in the centre of the Pyramids, namely the King Chambers, where King Cheops had been buried.  This stone coffin was still to be seen, but little else, only the big square room.  A strange feeling of awe and wonder are in there, which quietly vanished once outside.  As you all have seen photos of the pyramids and sphinx I will not attempt to describe them, only I could not help but wonder how on earth they had been built.  If I think hard at all I get a headache, so to overcome that painful ordeal, I will not attempt to fathom the problem.  That trip to the Pyramids, turned out to be the last sight-seeing expedition during our first day in Egypt, as after a busy week of training and equipping we received our sailing orders and on Sunday night the 15th August 1915, we struck camp at Heliopolis and entrained for Alexandria where we arrived early next morning.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER IV

 

"INTO THE UNKNOWN FUTURE"

 

In my previous chapters I have tried to throw some light on to the time leading up to my entry into the real thing.  Previous to this chapter my life in camps had begun to jar on my nerves, and when at last we were off to fill the gaps in the ranks of the first division and also to make new traditions, for the rest of our Australian Army, I couldn't find another feeling, however strict I was with my own examination of myself, than joy.  The 5th Brigade composed of as fine a lot of fellows one could wish for and who were well trained and in the very best of condition and spirits, was the first formed Regiment of the 2nd Division to leave Egypt for Gallipoli.  Are we proud you as; of course we were.  Proud of ourselves and proud of that for which we had come to fight.

 

On our arrival at Alexandria we were marched to our ship, on to which we embarked about midday, the ship being the S.S. Saturnia.  She was a filthy ship, the food tainted and the accommodation rotten.  We sailed from Alexandria about 5pm and after a miserable voyage lasting 5 days, we arrived at Lemnos, one of the small islands in the Aegean Sea belonging to Greece. The scenery during the voyage was good to see, the sea calm and blue, the sun hot and, owing to the zig zag course the ship took, the travelling was slow.  The Aegean Sea is infested with enemy submarines, hence the zig zag course.  Lemnos, a bare and bleak island, has a beautiful deep harbour fairly large and with high hills all around which break the force of the winds from all directions.  It was infested with hundreds of ships of all kinds, and on our trip right up the harbour, we passed by war ships of all the Allies, troopships, storeships and hospital ships.  No sooner had we dropped anchor, a number of us dived over the side of the ship and enjoyed our first decent wash for a week.

 

It was a Friday when we arrived at Lemnos and all that day was taken up with letter writing, issues of rations, communication etc and later that same night we were transferred on the S.S.             a much smaller vessel, also one recently captured from the Turks in the Dardanelles.  We were now fairly started into our unknown future and after the bustle and hurry of that day, I sat down a little apart from my men & thought hard.  I had not seen Les since leaving Egypt and I knew that he was somewhere about.  Where?  As we were now running a great risk of submarines no smoking or any lights were to be shown on deck.    A couple of hours I thought of dear ones at home, of happy

memories and wondering what was to come.  Again those words which I referred to in my preface crossed my mind & I prayed for strength to face bravely all that was to be my lot to face.

 

I was wakened from my reverie by the dull sounding of a big gun.  Everybody around was standing to, looking, and a good few rumours went around as to what it was.  A search light flashed out, way over on the hill and everybody was full of interest.  A few minutes later we could hear rifles and machine gun rattling.  At last we pulled up and lighters came along side on to which we speedily transhipped and were very soon landing on that famous beach “Anzac”.  As we neared the shore dawn commenced to show an appearance and then after some real quick work our landing was completed, unopposed on the early morning of the 21st day of August 1915.  This is some of the kit we carried ashore: 300 rounds of ammunition, pack full of clothing, together with overcoat, blanket, waterproof sheet, four days rations, water bottle full, also a bundle of firewood per man and a dixie of water between each man.

 

While waiting to be taken aboard the lighters, we had our first casualty in the 18th Battalion.  As this man, Cpl Shapira by name, turned out to be one of my best pals in every way in the remaining period I was in the Infantry, I would like my readers to make a note of his name.  Corporal Frank Shapira.  He was bandaged up and returned to Alexandria where he went into hospital returning to Gallipoli some three weeks later.

 

 

CHAPTER V

"GALLIPOLI"

 

We formed up on the beach of Anzac Cove and after a very tiring march along the shore turned up into a gully called "Rest Gully" and there we dropped our kit, and were told we could rest until midday.  Midday arrived and as we had a terrible lot to do, before we could move off, we were kept very busy for sometime.  The weather was frightfully hot and the flies and mosquitoes very troublesome.  I had the opportunity with some of my men to have a swim, in the sea off the shore of Gallipoli.  This was very refreshing, but if we had known previously the risk we ran while in swimming, I doubt if we would have gone in at all.  The particular part where we swam was shelled regularly by 'Beachy Bill'. The excitement and bustle of dishing out comforts that had preceded us there kept my mind off the future.  However when all that was to be done was finished, and all we had to wait for was darkness, I had plenty of time to think. Remember dear ones I had not seen Les, George or Harold for over a week, and as I knew they were somewhere ahead of us, I felt a little worried.  There was plenty to interest one in the immediate vicinity, however, and I quickly put aside my fit of depression and had a good look around.  In some dugouts a little higher up the hill, were some “Indians” who were resting.  As well as these were some of our own lads who had been there since the landing.  The sight of these poor fellows made my heart bleed.  Practically no clothes, unshaven, unwashed and after living for the last four months on bully beef and biscuits they looked far from well.  The tales they told us of the landing and of the fighting that followed made us realise the seriousness of the task we had undertaken.

 

At 1.45pm an observation balloon went up from one of the war-boats out at sea.  By 2pm a number of war ships and destroyers had come close in to shore and at 2pm sharp they commenced to bombard the hills over on our left.  This was our first experience of a bombardment of any kind, and we all thought it wonderful.  A little later Turkey commenced to reply with a few shells at our ships, and we could plainly see them falling in the water, all round the ships, but not one hit any of them.  Machine gun and rifle fire, was to be heard, now growing louder and louder every minute.  Everybody was filled with wonder and excitement and even awe at the sound.  A little later I was told by my platoon officer, Lieut Addison, that the big attack of Hill 60 and 971 had commenced, and also that we were to be in it before very long.

 

Standing on a hill overlooking the beach our attention was suddenly arrested, by the sight of some Turkish shells searching for one of our Howitzer Batteries which was situated in a small green patch, about 20 yards in from the water.  We were watching this for some time when all of a sudden our hearts stopped beating, with the sight we witnessed.  Along the beach, a horseman came galloping for his life.  He was a despatch carrier, on his way from headquarters to the battery that was being shelled.  Numerous shells burst around him, but I am thankful to say he escaped unhurt.  Word came round to us, that we were to move off at 7pm and at that hour we march off from Rest Gully, I marching at the head of my platoon with Lieut Addison.  Our way took us for some considerable distance along a communication trench deep and wide.  It was here that we encountered the first wounded to arrive from the big attack now in progress.  Some sights were pitiful to witness, but in answer to our excited questions, as to how things were going, they gave cheery and confident replies.  On various occasions we replied, to them as new soldiers would, that as soon as we arrived on the scene Johnny Turk would hook it.  These replies helped the 2nd Division to earn the name of "The Dinkums".

 

After a hard march of five hours we arrived in "Australia Gully" where the remainder of the 18th Batt was camped and with them Les, George & Harold.  I did not see them however, and as we were all dog-tired, we were told to dig in and rest until morning.  No sooner had we dug in, than we had to arise, take up our equipment and rifle etc and march away.  My Coy.D was the last to leave, and as A.Coy passed, I kept calling out for Les but I got no reply.  We marched all night until dawn through open country, sometimes through trenches, with the sound of the attack fading and then increasing stronger than ever.

 

We eventually arrived behind a high crestwork Iong after dawn had broken.

The officers had been called out by the Colonel and we were left to our thoughts again.  Bullets were whizzing overhead and now and again cheers sounded very close.  We wondered time and time again how our comrades were faring.  In a few minutes our officers came back, and Lieut Addison told me, that we were going to charge almost immediately.  I asked for orders, but was told, that they would be communicated to us later.  We moved off in single file, and had been marching for about half an hour past Indian & English troops, when the order came down the line to "Fix Bayonets".  No sooner had we done this, than another one came down to "Unfix Bayonets" and load magazine with five rounds.  We had no time to comply with this order, when another came down to “fix bayonets” again.  I had drawn my bayonet from the scabbard when all those in front of me were running like "blazes".  Following Lieut Addison and followed by my platoon and fixing our bayonets as we ran, we were met by a thunderous rattle of machine gun and rifle fire.  Men were falling in dozens, and still we went on.  Looking round and taking in everything I saw.  I realised that I was separated from my platoon, and was among the very few left standing so down I went.  The first sight I saw was Major McPherson, my O.C., throw up his hands and fall down dead.  Someone was crawling up to me, and when he was near enough I looked into the face of our Coy Sgt Major Roy.  It dawned upon me very soon, that a ghastly mistake had been made, and as we had received no orders, we had to act on our own initiative.

 

All around were dead and dying comrades, while the incessant, whiz, whiz, whiz of the bullets made it dangerous to move.  Together the Sgt Major and myself crawled about and tried to get a message down the line.  This could not be done as the Coy had been absolutely wiped out.  All our Officers were either killed or wounded, and as the Sgt Major was now in charge, he did the only possible thing to do, and that was to crawl along the line, to the survivors and tell them to retire.  We came across the Sgt Major's brother wounded badly in the face & as we thought him dead, we left him there.  He managed to get back later on when he regained consciousness.  We both managed to crawl about 200 yards when I felt a hard shattering knock on my arm, which knocked me over.  When I realised that I was wounded, and that I was alone, I slid off my equipment & threw away my rifle, and started to crawl on my stomach in the direction I thought we had come.  The sights I passed out there I shall never forget.  But still I had only one thought to get back to some shelter.  My arm was now useless and paining intensely and my head commenced to swim.  After crawling around out there, for as near as I can judge three hours, I crawled up to a prickly hedge.  Something seemed to tell me that once on the other side I was safe.  So taking great risk with the snipers I stood up and dived head first through the hedge and landed on the other side all of a heap.

 

Looking around I saw a trench facing me and a periscope looking at me.  A few seconds later a turbaned head as black as soot, peeped over the top and beckoned me in.  I stood up and ran like blazes into this trench, and landed into the arms of an Indian doctor, almost exhausted.  The happenings of the last few hours rushed through my mind, while the doctor dressed my wound and by the time he had finished I couldn't realise or distinguish anything.  He pointed the way for me to go and a few minutes later, I found myself among dozens and dozens of my comrades, who but a few hours ago had been strong, light hearted and happy, but who were now suffering agonies, that they themselves could only know.  Strong men cried over the pals that had been lost and who could, who possess any heart at all, help but feel the bitter loss, that a few hours had done to the finest body of men who have ever, or will ever, leave Australia - "The 18th Battalion".

 

I don't think it possible for me to feel a more bitter sense of anguish of soul, than when a few minutes later, I started on my way to the dressing station.  On Anzac Beach I passed A.Coy in which somewhere was my brother Les.  I could not see clearly for my eyes were dim.  I heeded not the greetings of my friends George & Harold as I passed them, my eyes were searching for the face of Les - I came up to him at length.  I could not speak to him, if I had I would have broken down completely.  The thought that he had to yet go into that which I had come through was too awful for words.  I could only grasp his hand for a few seconds with my good one & all I could say was "good luck Les" and I turned and left him.  The emotions of those few minutes are absolutely indescribable and

I am certain that whatever the circumstances I will never again experience

The like.

 

My way to the dressing station took me over some ground, that had just been won from the Turks, and at places it held pitfalls for the unwary, in as much that at certain places snipers had set rifles on certain points as well as machine guns.  I had my wound dressed again by our Regimental doctor, Captain Dunlop, who was afterwards wounded, while dressing patients at the same spot.  Two pals and myself eventually winded a painful journey to the beach, and there after our wounds had been dressed again we enjoyed a cup of tea.  It was at this dressing station that I found out how lucky an escape I had had with a bullet that penetrated my pocket, four letters, a pay-book, diary & stopped in my Bible.  You my dear ones at home received my Bible and have seen the diary, so you can realise how fortunate I was on that morning 22nd August 1915. Now everybody knows that the first charge of the 18th Battalion on that Sunday morning was an awful mistake, but as I do not know the cause I will say nothing, only that, I too join and share the deep sympathy of the mothers, wives, sweethearts and loved ones, of those brave comrades of mine, who lost their lives in the charge at Hill 60 on Gallipoli, on the Sunday morning the 22nd August 1915.

 

Poem

 

“For Home & Empire”

 

0. Soldiers of Australia

Who marched on Egypt's sands

Or stormed the Turks Peninsula

Ye fought for just demands

Of honour and of liberty

For distant kith and kin

Ye faced the foe, unflinchingly

Victorious peace to win.

 

Our wounded bore the battles brunt

While thousands still prepare

To take their places at the front

And all its perils share

Alas!  Alas! we mourn the brave

Who've paid the awful price

And who, for home and Empire, gave

Their lives a sacrifice.

 

0 God of nations, hear our prayer

Our enemies withstand

Uphold our armies everywhere

And still protect our land.

Soon may thy righteousness and might

From war the world release

Defeat the wrong, defend the right

And send a glorious, Peace

 

 

With kind thanks to Cousin Annie

 

 

 

 

CHAPT ER VI

 

"ON BOARD THE S.S. CANADA"

 

My wait at Anzac Cove lasted for two hours, when we were taken off on lighters,,to a hospital ship about a mile out from shore.  I had dinner on her and was then taken on to a steam pinnace to Imbers Harbour, where we transhipped on to another boat.  This boat took us as far as Lemnos, when we were transhipped to the S.S. Canada.  Early next morning we sailed in the direction of Malta.  Two days out, my arm getting gradually worse, I was operated on under chloroform, to get my arm drained.  This necessitated a third wound.  The next day we arrived at Malta, where we laid in the stream for three days.  Life on board this ship was anything but pleasant.  It was an ordinary troopship converted hurriedly into an auxiliary hospital ship.  It was over crowded with Tommys, the food tainted and very scarce, the washing utensils scarcer still, and as far as clothes there were none.  The nurses were kind, also the doctors, & treated us very well.  We left Malta, and three days later reached Gibralta where we stayed another three days expecting to go into hospital there.  Imagine our delight when on our third day we were informed that our destination was England.  From Gibralta to Davenport took three days and we were escorted by a destroyer all the way.  It was real pretty to see the destroyer cutting zig zag across our bow and we felt perfectly safe.

 

We had fine weather all the way and I was feeling fairly well, when we landed at Davenport on the morning of September 1915.  From Davenport to London took us eight hours, and we travelled through some beautiful country.  The reception we got at the stations our train stopped was very enthusiastic and made us feel very proud of ourselves.  We arrived at Paddington Station, London at midnight.  The station was in darkness and the people to whom we spoke told us that there had been a Zepp raid the night before, and that they expected another one that night.  We were duly impressed but at the same time didn't care much if all the Zepps Germany had, came across so long as we got to bed.  We were taken in cars to the various hospitals and I together with one of my pals Claud Bell, found ourselves in St George's hospital Hyde Park corner, situated right in the centre of London and about 500 yards from Buckingham Palace.  Will I ever forget the sights we saw on entering into our ward.  Just imagine, a long corridor with beds, pure white along each side, a long dark polished table down the centre.  Just inside the door sitting at a small table, with a large vase of flowers upon it, sat a pretty young nurse, while overhead, hung the one solitary light, softly shaded with a red lamp shade.  As we entered she rose, smiling at us the while, and welcomed us into the hospital.  Then followed my first bath for three weeks.  After a bath, we had supper and then into bed, afer having our wounds dressed.

 

My stay in hospital was one delight.  I was visited by Dad's cousin, Mrs Moore, also the mother of one of my fellow sergeants in the 18th, Mrs Everson.  The kindness of the people touched us greatly, also that of the nursing staff and the doctors.  Everywhere we went we were welcomed warmly and they could not do enough for us.  Every afternoon we had some outing, either a theatre or a home party, to which professional artists, used to come and amuse us, or else a motor drive round the suburbs of London and even through London itself.  While in hospital, the lists of casualties of the 18th Battalion were published in the English papers and as Les' name did not appear I was somewhat relieved, as I had been worrying a good deal about him.  In consequence of our trips around London, I saw a good deal and I decided to spend my furlough when discharged at some of the other places.  After a very pleasant stay in hospital, I was discharged on the ----- September after nearly three weeks spell.

 

 

 

CHAPTER VII

FURLOUGH & CAMP AGAIN

 

One bright Friday morning the --- September at 9.00 a.m. three other patients and myself were discharged from hospital and went from St George's hospital to Millbank Military hospital, Westminster where we were fitted out with a second-hand suit of Tommy's uniform.  From here I went by taxi to the Australian Imperial Forces Headquarters in Victoria Street.  Here after being examined by the doctor we were granted 14 days furlough.  I received a train warrant to Edinburgh as well as all the pay due to me on my pay book.  After that was all done, I was free to spend my fourteen days alone in London.  All my business took some considerable time and it was late in the afternoon when I eventually found myself free.  It then being too late, to go out to Mrs Moores, so I decided to book a room and then go to a theatre to pass away the evening.

 

Darkness overtook me before I had reached Waterloo, and I found myself wandering around, in the dreary drizzling rain that had commenced to fall.  I was indeed alone in London.  At Waterloo I was fortunate enough to obtain a room in the Y.M.C.A. and this done, retraced my steps to a restaurant I had passed on my way.  After tea I went to the Lyceum Theatre and after a very pleasant evening I went to bed.

 

Next morning early I caught a motor bus at Hyde Park Corner and 1 ½  hours later arrived at Mrs Moores, Upton Park.  I spent the day there, and at 11.55 p.m. that night found myself leaving Kings Cross Station bound for Edinburgh, where I arrived at 7.30 a.m. next morning.  I spent five days here looking at all the sights of interest.  The chief places I visited were, The Castle, Holywood Palace, Forth Bridge, and the seaside places of Portobello and Musselberra.  Staying at the Regent Hotel, Regent Street just off the main street, I was very much surprised to see the old cable system of trams, and also highly amused to see them still in use.  Edinburgh is a beautiful city.  The first sight that catches the eye as you walk down Princes Street is the Castle.  Between the road and the Castle, the ground dips down and forms a gully, which is laid out in form of a garden.  On the other side of the garden, the ground rises high above the road level and is rough and rocky.  High on top the Castle is built and, if a misty morning, is exceptionally beautiful.  Holywood Palace is another beautiful sight, only to enjoy the full visit one has to know history pretty well.  The trip out to Forth Bridge is full of interest and well worth a visit.

 

From Edinburgh I took a seat in a big motor charabang, the fare being a I/- each return.  The journey lasts just on an hour, and then pulls you up at a quiet little fishing village.  In ordinary times a ferry runs out under the bridge, but owing to the war, it is not running now, so we had to be content with looking from a distance.  It is a magnificent structure and spans the width of Forth.  We were delighted to see some of our own Australian war-ships, and we found out that this is their base.  My five days came to a close and on the ---- I caught the 10.30 p.m. train for London where I arrived at --- a.m. After breakfast I returned to Upton Park where I stayed and caught the train at Waterloo for Aldershot, and the home of my friend's mother, Mrs Everson.  I spent a very enjoyable though quiet holiday here, during which time I was made very welcome.  I returned to Upton Park on the --- October and stayed with Mrs Moore until the --- October when on that day my furlough came to an end.

 

I reported at Victoria Street and was then taken by train to Weymouth, the depot for the Australian and New Zealand troops.  Our camp was named "'Mlonte Video" and is situated some two miles out in the country.  I arrived here about 10.00 p.m. and was allotted to my hut.  Life here was very pleasant, a very mild routine of military work was carried out.  The food was real good and plentiful, and the washing and sanitary arrangements perfect.  Leave was granted almost every night and weekends, into the town of Weymouth, which is a town built right on the seaside, and in the season, one of the leading seaside resorts of England.  It boasted of a rather fine promenade built along the shore and at one end a decent theatre.  There are two theatres in Weymouth and various picture shows which we frequented.

 

I met some of my comrades who had been wounded in the same charge as myself, and we had some decent evenings together, talking of old times, and mostly of comrades we had lost.  One morning volunteers were called for, to form a draft to go back to Gallipoli and most of us volunteered and went into hard training to get fit.  Eventually on the morning of the -- November, we left our camp to the tune of "Keep the home fires burning" and "Keep your eyes on Germany" played by the depot band.  The train took us to Liverpool when at 11.00 p.m. that night we embarked on the "Olympic".  Next morning at dawn we sailed away from "Blighty" and after an uneventful voyage arrived at Lemnos on the ---- November.  We disembarked and went into camp for a week.  Nothing happened to relate during that week and on the morning of the ------ we embarked on the Princess Ena bound once more for Gallipoli.

 

 

 

CHAPTER VIII

"THE EVACUATION"

 

My thoughts, as in darkness and silence we pushed through the night on our way to the Peninsula, were varied and many.  I thought of the light hearted and happy comrades whom it was my honour, to be amongst on the last occasion I travelled these same waters.  I thought of home and loved ones, and how they were faring, I thought of Les, what he was doing and where he might be, and last of all what I was to do.  I prayed for confidence and strength to meet whatever was my lot, bravely and confidently.  I had had no word of Les or George, but in one of the London papers I had seen Harold had been reported killed.

 

The landing was carried out, in very much the same way as on the last occasion.  It took place at midnight and at dawn on the ---- I reported back to my company who were then at Courtneys Post.  Imagine my surprise and delight to see my old pal, Harold, looking at me, as large as life and in better condition than I had ever seen him before.  After breakfast I went round the trench to see George.  My word he was glad to see me.  We were talking of our experiences, when I looked up and saw poor old Les coming along the trench to see me.  I was overwhelmed with joy when I shook hands with him and saw how well he was looking.  I was glad to know that he was a Corporal on Ordinance, and as I knew that his work, kept him out of the firing line, I was real pleased.

 

The tales that both he and my pals told me of what had happened after I had left the Peninsula wounded, made me realise how fortunate I had been in missing the second charge on the Friday following the one I was in and also the heart-breaking and deadly work they had done even after that. My Company was sadly in want of reinforcements, in fact there were only 22 men all told that still remained in the old Battalion.  In the charge of the 22nd August the Battalion suffered somewhat like 70 casualties and after the second charge the total strength was a little over 200 strong out of the 1100 who landed there.  Our old Officers had suffered too and I found myself a total stranger to our new ones, also to more than half of the men.  Corporal Shapira had been promoted to Sergeant and from then on Frank and I became very close pals.  I quickly became acquainted with my duties and settled down to trench life fairly well.  Les came up fairly often to see me, and I often saw a good deal of George and Harold. We were only about 50 yards off the Turks and at one post called the “crater” it was only 10 yards. I was often on guard at this post.  I was very much interested in the network of underground tunnels and also in the mining operations that were in progress.  We were shelled every afternoon by the Turks between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. and this necessitated a permanent staff of parapet builders; bombing and machine gun duels were held nightly, but in the day time things were very quiet.  The food was very scarce and I lived solely on biscuits and bacon fat.  We had a little bacon each morning, practically no fresh bread or meat and very little jam or cheese.  Water was still scarce and other than the half pint of tea at each meal we had none.  Consequently we became very lazy, our casualties were light the majority being from snipers and sickness.

 

About the 15th December a rumour came round that the evacuation of Gallipoli was to take place.  Some heated discussion took place on this subject, but no-one realised that for once rumour would continue.  A couple of days later however, a circular came round from General Birdwood, that we were going to evacuate and telling us that those responsible for the operations relied on our secrecy and discipline.  This was received with a mixture of gladness and sorrow, glad because we would get away from what seemed even to us, a hopeless task, and sorrow on account, of the fine lives that had been lost there.

 

To whoever the honour of the evacuation belongs, he must congratulate himself upon the strategical and well-formed plans he made, that led up to so complete a success as the evacuation proved to be.  We were highly amused on the first night the strategical moves were practised.  It was as follows; an order came down the trench to the effect that a complete silence was to be maintained between the hours of twelve midnight and 3 am.  Of an ordinary night sniping, bombing, and machine gun fire was kept up until dawn and consequently when Johnny Turk missed these regular sounds from our trenches, he was completely bamboozled and straight away started a terrific fire at us.  We kept a strict silence nightly only at different hours, and sometimes longer and sometimes shorter.  The Turks took a tumble at last, after three or four nights, and answered our silence in the same manner.

 

It was about this time a week prior to the last of the operations that Les and I had another narrow escape.  Les came up from Shrapnel Gully to bid me good luck and goodbye, as he was leaving that night with D.A.D.O.S. I was in charge then of the post on Courtneys Post and after chatting to Les for about ¼ hour I went out on to the platform in rear of the trenches.  We had just shaken hands and I was turning to go back to my post, while Les was just descending the steep hills, which led down to Shrapnel Gully, when a broomstick bomb, lobbed among six fellows who were standing about 10 yards from us.  Two were killed and three wounded. Iwas knocked down with the falling body of one of the poor chaps, but I escaped covered in blood, and with a sprained ankle.  Les was unhurt.  The result of the silences maintained by us during the night led to in my opinion, our complete success during the three last critical nights of the evacuation.

 

I will only dwell on the last night in which I took part.  George and Les safely away I felt comparatively happy.  In the first and second nights small parties had left but this night the -- December 1915 was to be the deciding night.  The afternoon was occupied in various preparations like burying ammunition, bombs, etc packing up our belongings and equipment and also blackening old shiney metal parts, so as not to show in the moonlight.  We had already sent our covering Party, who took up  their position on “Pluggs Plateau” their duty being to fight a rearguard action in case of necessity.  At 5 pm practically all our troops left the trenches and formed up on the platform in rear leaving sufficient only to man each post with two men and one N.C.O. in charge of four posts with one Officer per Company.  I was in charge of cro’s 5, 6, 7 and 8. From 5 p.m. our task was very tedious.  On us remaining in the trench depended on the safe evacuation of the majority of troops now on their way to Anzac Cove in case Turkey attacked.  Everybody was filled with excitement and sniping was carried out until 11.30 p.m. I wandered from post to post chatting to the men and now and again went along to have a chat to Harold Williamson who was one of the machine gun crew, and who was one of the very last to leave the trenches.  At 11.30 p.m. all rifle fire ceased, and at 11.45 p.m. we filed out silently on to the platform, where we all congregated leaving only the machine gunners and Officers in the trenches.  These men were to leave at 2.00 a.m.

 

At midnight we started down the steep, rocky hillside on our way to the beach.  Our feet being muffled also our rifles and bayonet handles, we made no row, and all that was to be heard was the deep slow breathing of the men.  On our way we passed several cemeteries and our eyes grew dim at the thought of leaving our brave comrades remains, in the hands of the enemy.  Our small party soon swelled in numbers as we were joined in the gully, by our men filing down from various other parts of the line.  We eventually arrived at the Beach and as we marched along the wharf, we were counted by two Officers, and without a moments delay we embarked on the lighters and quickly steamed away to the troopships lying about 1000 yards out from the shore.  Now that we were safely away from the shore, we waited to see what would have been a most spectacular sight.  I refer to the lighting of the mines.  The last fortnight on the Peninsular, was taken up by sinking huge mines all along the Anzac front.  This work kept going day and night, was very hard and tedious, as all the earth      excavated had to be put in bags and carried out behind the trenches. A few days before the operations started these mines were completed and connected up by electric wires to the beach.  As we heard, when on the way to Lemnos, that on the last night an order was given to the effect that, the mines were not to be let off unless Turkey attacked, as they did not attack we were cheated out of a very fine sight.

 

Once safely aboard our troopship we waited anxiously for the machine gunners and also the rear guard of which the majority of men were from the 18th Battalion to come aboard.  About an hour later, everybody being safely off the Peninsula, we set sail for Lemnos, where we arrived about 9.00a.m. on the morning of the ---- December 1915.  We disembarked at 2.00p.m. and after a very solid march arrived at our camp at West ???

about 7.00 p.m.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER IX

 

"ON LEMNOS ISLAND"

 

Nothing in the shape of food was forthcoming that night, so after allotting our men to their tents we turned in to bed and slept soundly until morning.  Lemnos is a bare and barren Island, at this time of the year, situated in the Mediterranean Sea and belonging to Greece.  It is poorly inhabited and the buildings are crude and dirty.  Studded here and there around the island are small villages built of mud and stone.  The people are quaint and so are their ways.  The chief industry seems to be grapevine growing, also a little wheat and corn.  Their farm implements are of a type hundreds of years old, their ploughs being the same as described in the Bible and pulled by oxen.

 

Our first day on Lemnos was taken up by sorting and delivering mail and comforts of which there was quite a quantity.  The weather was just nice until the day before Xmas, when on Xmas day it turned very windy and cold.  Xmas day being a holiday, Frank Shapira, Les and myself, hired donkeys and rode out to a little village about five miles from our camp.  This village is the only one on Lemnos that offered any attraction at all to us. Here we were fortunate to obtain a hot spring bath.  It was in a square room built many years ago, and built of marble with the hot spring water oozing out of the four corners.  This bath was the first bath most of the chaps had had for four months and so you can imagine how welcomed it was.  Two days after Xmas a modified system of training commenced until New Year’s day.  That turned out to be very wet and cold and consequently we spent a very miserable day.  All our spare time Frank Shapira and I spent in visiting the villages round about and purchasing various eatables for the Mess.  We averaged 6 dozen eggs a day while we were on the Island.

 

We struck camp on Tuesday, 4th at 9.00 a.m. and after the worst rout march I have ever been in arrived at the landing stage and embarked on the “S.S. Simla”.  The weather delayed our departure for 8 hours but at 3 p.m. on the 5th January sailed out of Lemnos harbour bound for Alexandria where we arrived at 2 p.m. on the 8th January 1916.  No leave was granted at Alexandria and after spending the night on board disembarked at 9 a.m. on the 9th January 1916.  I need hardly say how glad we were to be back once more in the land of the Gyppos to a well earned rest.

 

 

 

CHAPTER X

 

“EGYPT CONTINUED”

 

A couple of hours march took us to the train and once on board we quickly sped away to a destination unknown.  We thought we were on our way to Cairo, but when we reached the station of Zag-a-Zig which is the junction between Alexandria, Ishmalia and Cairo, we branched off and an hour later arrived at Tel-el-Kebir.  The Australian Camp here is about the largest I have seen.  There were thousands and thousands of infantry and artillery here, but the camp being new the water arrangements were very poor, and water to wash in was hard to obtain.  On Tuesday, 11th I went up to find Dad, and after looking around for a few minutes, espied him standing near his tent.  I gave him quite a shock, when I called out to him, but he was pleased to see me.  I returned back to camp a couple of hours later, but I visited Dad daily and took Les, George and Harold up with me.

 

Tel-el-Kebir is only a siding without any town at all and is only a bare, barren place in the desert.  It is an historic place as it was here that the English fought that great battle, where the conquest of Egypt was decided.  Even now are to be seen the crestworks used in that battle and souvenirs like old time cartridges are to be found round about.

 

The usual routine of a soldier's life was carried out here and on Saturday afternoon the 15th, the whole 2nd Division was inspected by General Murray.  Leave was hard to obtain here, but nothing daunted Frank and I faked a pass and went into Zag-a-Zig on Sunday and enjoyed a good feed.  It is an hours run in the train from Tel-el-Kebir and is a fairly large town, but just the same as the rest, very dirty and immoral.  Our trip being undiscovered we repeated it on several occasions.  My feet were beginning to trouble me here and I reported to the "Quack" and this is the cure he gave me: wear two pairs of socks and go out into the desert three times daily and rub my feet with sand.  Rather a unique cure, eh!  Needless to say I never attempted the cure.  However my feet beginning to get very bad, I reported to the 5th Field Ambulance and was sent to hospital in Cairo where I arrived on the 28th January.  I was in this hospital until 23rd February when I was discharged and I reported to Base Details at Zeitown.  My bunions have not troubled me since.

 

At Zeitown we had a very easy time and I had several trips into Cairo.  While here "achne" broke out very badly on my chest and I reported sick on the lst March and on the following day was taken to the Ist A.D. Hospital Abbassia.  I was here until 15th March, when I was discharged quite cured.  Base Details having moved from Zeitown I went out to the 2nd Division Overseas Base at Gizeh.  Gizeh camp is a very comfortable little place and is situated on the banks of the Nile about three miles out from Cairo on the way to the Pyramids.  Leave was granted every afternoon and so I had a good look round.  I visited the Pyramids and Sphinx again in company with a friend Cyril Charge of the 20th Battalion.  This trip took place one moonlit night and was very picturesque and enjoyable.  I visited the zoo, which is one of the finest in the world, on several occasions.  Gizeh gardens are very fine too, and I used to go there often of a night and play with the little English children.  I enjoyed this holiday very much, but as I was anxious to rejoin my unit, I volunteered for a draft, and left Gizeh, on the morning of Saturday the 25th March.

 

After a frightfully hot and dusty march through Cairo, we arrived at Heliopolis aerodrome camp at 2 p.m. after a march from 9 to 12 miles.  The aerodrome camp is very much altered since we left here nearly eight months ago.  Cool huts have taken the place of tents and Canteens and Y.M.C.A. huts are all over the place.  On arrival here I was attached as Act.Sgt.Major to the 9th Reinforcements of the 18th Battalion and as they were to leave in a couple of days, I made special application and was allowed to leave with them.  At 4 a.m. on the morning of the 27th March, we marched away from the Aerodrome Camp once more and entrained at Zeitown and journeyed to Alexandria and embarked on the S.S. Saxonia at 5 p.m. for destination unknown.  The Saxonia is a comfortable ship and four of us shared a cabin.  The food too is tip top, and the washing arrangements, which most troopships lack, were very good.

 

Next morning at 8.00 a.m. we sailed from Alexandria the date being the 28th March.  Life on board troopships in the Mediterranean Sea is very dangerous owing to the submarines.  Each man is given a life belt, and each unit is allotted a special position in case of alarm, also a certain number of boats, rafts etc.  The ship taking a zig-zag course to deceive those on watch on the submarines.  After a very pleasant and safe trip we arrived at Marseilles at 10 a.m. on the morning 2nd April 1916.

 

CHAPTER XI

"FRANCE"

 

The entrance to the harbour of Marseilles is very beautiful, and is the nearest approach to Sydney Harbour I have ever seen.  Sailing down the harbour one sees two totally different kinds of scenery.  The foreshores are high rugged peaks some of which are thickly studded with vegetation of all kinds, while others are barren chalky peaks.  The town is situated at the foot of these hills and the town, mingled together with the green and white hills in the background, make a fine picture.  We disembarked at 5 p.m. and marched to a rest camp about 2 miles away.  As no leave was granted, we turned straight into bed and at 5 a.m. next morning left camp and marched to the train.  Those of the population that were astir gave us a very good welcome.  We entrained at 9.30 a.m. and at 10 a.m. steamed away from Marseilles.  Our first stop was at the station of "Orange" where we arrived at 4 p.m.  At this station we had a meal issued consisting of bully-beef and biscuits with tea, to which was added a little rum.  It was a relief to get something to eat and drink.  About midnight we reached the station of Macon where we were served with a similar meal, our next stop being Laumes at 10 a.m. Tea was served at 5 p.m. at the town of Montreaux and here we got a very big welcome.  We passed Amiens at 7 a.m. next morning and at midday on the 5th April disembarked at Etaples which is the base for Australians in France, after a trip of 50 hours.

 

Our journey commenced down at the south of France and finished up north.  The scenery during the trip was simply beautiful, especially travelling through the valley of the rivers Seine and Rhone.  The roads took our eye almost at once, and as well as here, everywhere I have been in France the roads are very good.  A good deal of grape vine growing is undertaken in the south of France.  We went into camp at Etaples and as the camp was just forming it was not very comfortable.  The routine here consisted of rout marches, bayonet fighting, physical drill etc.  I was told to report to No.1 training camp, which I did on the morning of the 8th April and was installed there as an instructor to reinforcements.  Etaples is only a small fishing village itself, but about five miles out on the coast to which a tram runs, is one of the fashionable sea-side resorts of France namely “Paris Plage”.  I visited this town on one occasion, but most of the people had gone elsewhere on account of the war, and it was practically deserted.  On Monday night the 24th April, we were visited by a Zeppelin which dropped six bombs about 500 yards away from our camp.  There were no casualties.

 

On the 25th April, the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, a big ceremonial parade was held on a large field, behind a big Canadian hospital.  We marched with fixed bayonets from camp, through all the English and Scotch camps to this field where we were inspected.  Then followed a service.  This ceremony was the most impressive I have ever witnessed.  A large number of wounded soldiers, also nurses joined in the singing of hymns, and as their soft feminine voices blended with ours, it brought tears to more eyes than one.  After the service a “Royal Salute” was sounded after which we marched past and returned to camp.  A few days later a draft was sent for to join the 18th Battalion in the trenches, and after some difficulty, I was allowed to go with it.

 

We left Etaples at 2am on the morning of the ---- May, and after travelling all day disentrained at Steenwerck.  A Guide from the Battalion met us here and then followed a rout march to the trenches at Bois Grenier.  A little incident happened here, that made me realise that this class of warfare in France, was totally different, to that which I had experienced before.  We were in the danger zone, and had been marching for about one hour, and feeling a bit tired we sat down on the roadside for a spell.  Close by was an old farmhouse known as "Charlies Farm". We had been there for about five minutes when a shell came over and landed on the road about 20 yards behind us.  Luckily no one was hit, and we up, and started to move on, when we heard another one coming.  I saw this one, and it appeared to be coming directly for me, so on the spur of the moment, I hopped to the side of the road, and alas in a ditch.  My! wasn’t I a picture, mud up to my waist.  I arrived at the trenches at last and reported back to D.Coy and was put in 15 Platoon.  I met George and Harold and after a good long talk with them, went down to the S.M.'s dugout and got a good big batch of letters, the first for nearly four months.

 

Life in the trenches was ideal compared to Gallipoli.  The food was good and plentiful and that's the main thing.  Things were very quiet except for the aeroplanes.  Each morning “Stand to” was passed along the trenches at different hours.  At this time of the year, it was at 2.30 a.m. and lasted about an hour.  The time varies with the dawn and likewise at dusk.  These times being the most preferable times the enemy would attack.  The order would come down in this manner;  “D.Coy stand to from Captain -------”.   On this order the men would all tumble out of their beds and seizing their rifles stand up on the fire step ready for action, until the stand down was given.  On each bay two sentries are posted and they occupy their time by observing and sniping.  Observing by day with periscopes and by night over the bags.  After “stand down” in the early morning, the platoon Sgt would issue out rations, rum and letters to his platoon, and after seeing that the place was all cleaned up, rifles cleaned etc., we would all be free to turn in again until breakfast which was about 8 a.m.

 

Everything was quiet in the daytime until between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Between these hours Fritz used to open out on to our trenches.  As soon as the bombardment started, we would all lay flat down on the bottom of the trench, or else crouch low to the parapet until it was over.  Our usual length of time in the trenches was anything from ten to fourteen days, and then we would be relieved by the 20th Battalion and March back to billets behind the line about two miles.  I saw Dad and Les a good deal when out for a spell, as Dad's billet was close to mine and Les used

to cycle over from the village of Fleurbaix, a distance of about five miles from “Bois Grenier".  Our spell out of the trenches was mostly fatigues of a night                    time and consequently we did not get much rest.  About

the end of May, early June, things started to get very lively in the

trenches.  After dark we would send out different parties into “no man's

land” such as listening posts, patrols and barb wire fatigues.  These jobs

were very dangerous as we never knew when we would bump the enemy, or

have his machine guns turned on us.  The barb wire fatigues were

exceptionally dangerous.  Both we and Fritz use rockets fired out of

a pistol which rise high in the air and throw out a strong light, making

no mans land almost as light as day, and if we were working and not

thinking of “flares” we would easily be caught and have the guns on us.

However, those jobs have to be done and by somebody and such is the life

       of a soldier.           

 

 

 

About the end of June the raids started and this kind of warfare showed us the real thing as far as artillery goes.  A party of picked men would gather together in the front line trench, faces blackened and with nothing on them other than their clothing, so as not to give any information to the enemy if any were captured by them.  At a given hour the artillery would open out a terrific bombardment on the enemy trenches.  Under cover of this our raiding party would crawl out into no man's land and as soon as the artillery lifted rush the trenches of the enemy, kill as many as possible and take a certain number of prisoners, then a signal would be given and they would come back as fast as possible to our own trenches and the raid was over.  Meanwhile those left in our trenches would be having a hellish time.  No sooner had our artillery opened out than Fritz retaliated and kept it up for almost two hours.  Luckily our casualties were slight.  The object of these raids was to get information and to put the “wind up” the Huns.  Needless to say my regiment was in the fashion, and we held the honour of being the only Battalion to have a raid on their own, while we were on the Armentiers front.

 

Between the ---- June and the ---- June these raids were held every night and we had a very strenuous time of it.  Rumours commenced to fly around at this time, about us going to another part of the line and so on the --- July we marched away from our billets at Erquingham to a destination unknown.  Our first days march was from Erquingham to -------- a distance of about ---- miles and was through some magnificent country.  We billeted at a farm house that night and early next morning marched away from --- and next evening arrived at ----- a distance of ----- miles.  We Stayed the night here also, and next morning moved off, on the road and at 2 p.m. arrived at the station of “Arques”, where we entrained and after a 10 hour journey during which we passed St Omer, Calais, Boulogne, and Etaples, arrived at Amiens, where we disentrained at 2 a.m. and set out on the road once more.

 

We know our destination now is the Somme as we have got papers telling of the marvelous success the Allies achieved on July Ist, 1916.  We pulled up beside a stream on the roadside for breakfast (bully and biscuits) and later on reached the village of ---- about ------ kilometres from Amiens.  On the ------ July Harold Williamson and myself broke leave and visited the town of Amiens, which we found a rather large town, but like all the rest terribly behind the times and dirty.  We left ------ on the ----- July and a few days later reachd the town of Warloy, passing on the way several villages too numerous to mention.  We are now only a few miles behind the big push and were interested to see the aerial activity.  We counted as many as 40 observation balloons and as many aeroplanes up at the same time.  We stayed here ---- days and on the evening of the --- July moved of f from Warloy and late that night arrived on an open field outside the town of Albert, which is the most principal town on the Somme front, and from which a railway is still running.  It is shelled even today, but in spite of this, there are a few inhabitants.  Les is situated in this town also while the 5th Infantry Brigade are on the Somme front.

 

CHAPTER XII

“MODERN WARFARE”

 

 

Early next morning we were told that the lst Division were to take the town of Pozieres, and that we were to hold ourselves in readiness to move up to their support at a moments notice.  We were inspected by the Colonel and issued out with tin discs about 6" in diameter and these we tied on the centre of our backs to reflect the sun, so as our aeroplanes could recognise us from the enemy.  All that day was spent watching the shells exploding on the ridge in the distance, and with getting everything ready for our turn in the push.

 

At 8 p.m. on the night of the ---- July we moved off from our bivouac and passed through Albert and soon found ourselves among the bustle and excitement that was going on.  We went as far as the old German first line trench that night, and as we were all dog tired slept until morning What a sight met our eyes when we wakened.  All our military ideas went west when we beheld the scenes before us.  Hundreds of guns were almost wheel to wheel, 18 pounders among 9.2s and 12”s.  They had no cover at all nor any concealment.  We were wonderstruck after always believing that the most essential thing for artillery was concealment.  This was due however, to our magnificent airmen who were so busy, that Fritz simply could not, put up any of his planes and balloons.  If he had we would have lost hundreds of guns.  But this was not all, thousands of Infantry were moving up and down transports of all kinds were simply congested, they were so thick and all this on the battlefront of the biggest battle in the history of the world.  The dressing stations were very busy and wounded were to be seen coming down on trolleys stretchers, and any way that human aid could give them.  They were our own troops, to the good old lst Division who as we have been told, had made such a brilliant success of the capture of Pozieres.

 

We moved off to relieve the lst Division that night, and it was an experience I for one will never forget.  It took place at night and as we were going up they were coming down from hell.  They gave us cheery answers to our questions, well meant advice as to what to do to the Huns etc but gradually we began to think seriously of this game, and silence reigned supreme, except for the deep breathing of the men and the rattle of our equipment as we bumped up against the sides of the communication trenches.  Shells were flying overhead and a few landed uncomfortably close to us, but we had no casualties.  The relief being over, D. Coy were told to dig ourselves in, which we did behind a small natural bank.  We had quickly dug a fairly deep trench and then we were allowed to sleep.

 

The next morning we fairly copped it.  The 17th Battalion had started a bombing duel with the Huns.  This duel lasted 36 hours and I in charge of 30 men, carried up bombs, water and ammunition to them through the remains of a communication trench, on to which the German heavy artillery played incessantly.  I was fortunate enough to get through this hellish time, but my party suffered heavily, as did others on the same job, and in the end we had to walk on dead bodies.  It was awful but worse was to follow, and at the end of 36 hours the 17th Battalion gave the knockout to Fritz and wrestled two trenches from him.  I lost one of the finest officers any one could have during that stunt, namely Lieut Mosie.

 

On the ---- July D.Coy, now sadly depleted of its number, was sent down to Sausage Gully on fatigues.  I made enquiries here and eventually found Dad at his guns.  My wasn't he pleased to see me.  We were here until the ---- but owing to the 7th Brigade failing to take their object on the night of the           July, we had to move up to the trenches again on the night of the ------.  We were told now that the 2nd Division had to advance 1000 yards            from Pozieres before we could be relieved.  With this in view we went into no man's land at night and dug trenches deep and narrow. The next night we would go out and occupy those trenches and later on do the same thing only advance a few more hundred yards.  All this was done under constant shell fire and was terribly nerve-racking to all.  Our casualties were mounting up too, and this made all the more work for those left.  After 11 days solid work in this manner with little food and less sleep we had our trenches dug all ready for the charge.  We were in tramway trench, which was a secret trench, and into which both Fritz shells and our own used to land and it was a trying ordeal.  Our casualties were very heavy here and I was practically buried three times in one night together with two of my men.  However, I was spared to come through alright and on the night of the 3rd August, we were relieved by C.Coy. and we went back to a communication trench to have a days spell.  I had a good sleep that night only we had several narrow escapes on the way down, as Fritz saw us moving across the open, and opened out with his heavys.

 

Next day at midday we were told that we were to go “over the bags with the best of luck” that night.  Our O.C. sent down word to platoon Sgts and we met him at his dugout and received our final orders. (Our O.C. was Captain Bruce M.C.) At 6 p.m. that night we marched off from our communication trench to take up our position for the charge.  Just previous to this I sent my diary together with a note down to Dad in “Sausage Gully” in case I was to fall.  On our way up I passed George Ritchie, and we just had time for a handshake as I passed.  It was just commencing to get dark as we eventually found ourselves all ready and waiting for the signal to go over the bags with the best of luck.  The charge was to go over in four waves 50 yards between, the first two were to rush and capture the German first line trench, and the last two after a 12 minute delay were to go over our heads and capture the second line.  The fun was to start at 9.15 p.m. the date being 4th August 1916.  I will not try and describe my thoughts, but after a short prayer I felt more confident and calm, than I had for days passed.  My platoon was sadly unchristened, and gazing along the shallow rut, we were waiting in, I saw that they too were longing for the signal that was to decide our fate.  A lot depended upon this charge to the 2nd Division and more so to us.  We had not suffered a defeat yet, and did not want to on this occasion especially after the success of the Ist Division.  Then again, if this charge was successful we would either be killed, or on the other hand be granted a few days spell.  These things were passing in our mind as we waited in the fast gathering dusk.

 

At 9.15 a.m. our artillery opened out on to the enemy first line trench and kept there for three minutes.  This was our signal and as soon as the first shell came screeching overhead we jumped over the parapet and started at a walk towards our objective.  It was just light enough for us to distinguish the forms of the first wave in front, I being in the second wave.  The scene is and ever will be imprinted on my memory as the most spectacular sight a man could see.  Just imagine, reader, men, your own kith and kin, each carrying two bombs, 4 sandbags, a pick and shovel, a rifle and bayonet going at a jog trot, across no man's land at dusk, behind a deafening roar of artillery, overhead the shrill swish of the smaller shrapnel shells, mingled with the deeper dull roar of the heavy high explosives, all around our comrades keeping in a thin line, with an interval of from four to five yards falling into shell holes, picking themselves up and going on again and in front and in fact by now the shrapnel (our own) bursting right above our heads, and the enemy.  By this time the 3 minutes given to the artillery to remain on the enemy first line trench being up, they lifted on to the enemy second line.  This lifted just as our first wave got to their objective and we consequently caught the Huns, deep down in their dugouts, and consequently comparatively harmless.  A few seconds later I arrived together with our second wave.  We had some difficulty at first in recognising that we were in a trench, and only for the dugouts we would not have in all probability recognised them as trenches so ruined were they from our artillery.  As soon as I jumped into our captured position three revolver shots rang out from the mouth of a dugout killing a man directly in front of me.  This necessitated strong measures and as a preventative to such a cowardly action being repeated we hurled six bombs down the mouth of the dugout and at once filled up the entrance.  We quickly found out that there was no opposition and at once set to work to consolidate our new position.  At this juncture our third and fourth wave passed us on their way to Fritz’ second line.  Among them was George Ritchie.  We heard from wounded that they had had as complete a success as we had and were needless to say highly delighted.  Fritz had been absolutely routed.  However work had to be done and this consisted of 10 hours solid pick and shovel work, first aid to our own as well as to Fritz’ wounded, also the removal of the hundreds of dead.

 

By dawn our trenches were fairly decent, and we thought we could have a rest until 4 p.m. when we were to be relieved by the 4th Division.  But this was not to be for with the dawn came Germany's 12” shells and as he had the range to an inch, our casualties which had up to this time been light, mounted higher and higher.  The picture that beheld my eyes that night when the 4th Division came up was simply awful.  The barrage which Fritz kept up on to and behind our lines made it impossible to get

the wounded to a dressing station and as the dugouts were full the poor brave men who had been wounded were simply left out in the trenches at the mercy of the big shells and not a few were killed.  The relief took place at about 8 p.m. on the night of the 5th August and this operation was a thousand times worse than the actual charge.  The saps and communication trenches were filled with dead and dying, and dozens were buried alive from the debris from the flying shells.  We got through their barrage all right and I found myself in Sausage Gully about 4 a.m. on the 6th August.  An hour later I arrived at Dad's dugout, and knowing that he would be anxious about me I called out and woke him up, and there while the din of battle raged outside I told him all about it.

 

I must have looked an awful picture.  Just try and imagine me dear ones, not having washed nor shaved for 15 days and with very little sleep and food, clothes torn and unkept and there you have me.  I will not disguise the fact, that those fourteen days of modern warfare, showed me the most brutal, ghastly and piteous sights imaginable on the one side, while on the other I had a glimpse into the innermost corners of real men's souls, and I also learned the value of comradeship.

 

I left Dad about 6.30 a.m. and marched to a hill at the end of Sausage Gully where the Brigade was to meet.  After breakfast we were inspected by General Birdwood who spoke in honeyed language about our- deeds, and we could not help but feel proud of our feat on the first occasion of our trial on the Somme front.  At 4 p.m. we marched away from the battle ground, my platoon strength being 8 men and myself, out of the 58 I took into action.  We again marched through Albert and imagine my pleasure, dear friends, when on the corner of the street, I espied Les waiting for me.  He walked along for about a mile and promised to cycle down to Warloy that night at which place we were to billet.  He did so and we had a good old talk over a cup of coffee and biscuits.  The next day we were on the road once more and that night we bivouaced in an orchard proceeding to -------- the next day where we arrived at 2 p.m. Our spell out consisted of rout marches and the ordinary routine of an infantry man's life.  It was while here that I decided to transfer to the artillery, and I will tell my reasons to you all when I return home. With this end in mind I rode over to the town of St Ledger, where Dad was billeted and got him to put in a claim for me, which he did, and it was granted and I transferred to the 13th Battery A.F.A. on the 22nd August 1916 as a gunner after being 14 months a sergeant in the 18th Battalion in Active Service.

 

 

Poem

 

'Gone'

 

They left brave memories behind!

We, who remembered all their cheery ways

Which sun-swept the drab days -

We, who remembered all their plucky ways

Which shortened cares long miles

When feet grew road-worn, and when wills grew slack

And some had fain turned back

We thank God, for the souls, who breast life’s wind

With grit - and leave brave memories behind

 

Lilian Gard

Peassons Magazine

 

 

 

CHAPTER XIII

"ODDS AND ENDS"

 

I have now come to the end of my experiences in the actual fighting and now intend to give my readers a brief view of life "Behind the Lines".  We have just been relieved in the front line and are marching back for a few days rest.  The climate of France being so changeable billets are provided for us instead of tents.  Our billets vary somewhat.  Sometimes we occupy a farm house, other times we use stables, sheds or anything at all with a roof on, and then again around Erquingham way we had wooden huts erected amidst small groups of trees.  Of course we are sometimes shelled in our billets and I assure you it is not a very pleasant sensation waking up just as a 5.9 comes through the roof next door.

 

Our spell out includes, fatigues, and working parties up to the trenches at night, and drill and gas helmet inspections at daytime.  A spell is considered a big ioke among the boys for the reasons I have mentioned. we have practically more rest when in the trenches than we do out,  but there are not so many shells to contend with and that’s the main thing.  Life in a convalescent camp, or even at the base is rather pleasant in this way.  Everything possible is done for the troops by various institutions including the Y.M.C.A., Soldiers Christian Association, Salvation Army and The Catholic Women’s League.  At these institutions we can buy cocoa, tea or coffee and biscuits, cake etc at very reasonable prices.  Then again the authorities organise all sorts of concerts free, and the music, singing of both professional & amateur artists is really enjoyable.  But life at the Base jars on ones nerves, but sometimes it is a struggle which to put up with, the front line or the base, and the front line invariably wins the day, and you volunteer to go with the first draft possible and in a very short time, you find yourself “up the line with the best of luck” & when you commence to call yourself all kinds of idiots for coming away sooner than you would have done, if you had waited for them to send you.  But it is always pleasant to know, when you are among the horrors of war, that you came of your own free will, instead of being forced to go.

 

Thinking over the times I have been through, and of the pals I have fought with and whom I have lost, I feel proud that I was one of them in the big venture, they laid down their lives in.  I need hardly say, that this life being as it is, devoid of all that a man holds dear in life, and that makes life worth living has not altered me.  I have witnessed joy at its highest, sorrow at its deepest, my views on life, comradeship etc  has broadened. I think I am telling the truth when I say that I also know the principals on which a man's life must be based.  I am not going to give my readers, the opinion that I have conquered sin entirely, because it would be a lie.  But I have learned lessons by painful experiences that I will benefit by all my life.  It is easy enough under normal conditions to live rightly, but on active service, a man being months at a time among horrors unspeakable, and away from the soothing influences of home life, it is very hard, and one must learn by experience and I am sure it is the best way of forming the base to the life one wishes to live.  And I am sure too that as long as one does benefit by the pitfalls and skies clear in future his mistakes will be overlooked and forgiven.

 

I thank God for his love and protection of my Father, brother and myself, and for the love of my dear ones at home, knowing as I do know that prayers for our welfare and safety, from that dear country 14,000 miles away have been answered so far.  I cannot help but feel that they will be answered right through this war.

 

And now dear ones, I have completed what I set out to do, but am only too conscious of the poorness of my attempt but as long as I know that it gives you as much pleasure to read it as it has given me to write it for you I am content.  It has been written a good deal under shell fire in my dugout and at other times in our billets.  Now my dear ones, may God keep you all from sickness and danger, and may he grant that very soon, we will all be reunited in that little town "'Bexley" in God's own countrv - Australia.

 

Finis

 

JOHN HAROLD FALCONER

Boulogue, February 5th, 1917

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

POEM

 

Why live – when life is sad

            Death only sweet

Why fight - when closest fight

            Ends in defeat.

Why pray - when purest prayers

            Dark thoughts assail.

Why strive - and strive again

            Only to fail

Why hope - when life has proved

            Few best hopes vain.

Why love - when love is fraught

            With us much pain.

Why not cool heart and brain

            In deep wave

Why not lay down and rest

            In the still grave

 

Live - there are many round

            Needing thy care

Pray - there is one at hand

            Helping thy prayers

Fight for the love of God

          Not for renown

Strive - but in His great strength

            Not in thine own

Hope - there is Heaven's joy

            Laid up for thee

Love - For true love outlives

            Its agony

Fight, pray, and wrestle on

            Loving God best

Then - when thy work is done

            Lie down and rest