GRANDAD'S WW1 DIARY
My grandad was with the New Zealand Field Ambulance in World War One - at Gallipoli, Salonika, the Somme and Passchendaele. His diaries are fascinating to read. In honour of Anzac Day here is an excerpt of his arrival and first few weeks at Gallipoli.
Thurs 16 Sept 15
Cleared Lemnos 4.30 and had a beautiful calm trip to Anzac arriving 9pm. Had plenty to eat and good tea on the trip.
In NZ always thought what queer emotional thoughts one would have on a trip like this where perhaps in a few hours dozens of the men around one would be killed but no I feel as unconcerned as possible, not the least emotional. Here now I can hear the guns going off – the first I have heard in anger. The place where we land looks just like a town. Lights all over the hill. We are now waiting to disembark. Warship bombarding the shore & just after we were all on the lighter for the shore, star shells went up and a terrific rifle fire started. Sounds just like a very heavy hailstorm on an iron roof. Spray bullets started to hit the boat and the water around. We all lay down. Only one man on the lighter was hit. It stopped in about half an hour and we made for the shore. A jetty to land at now.
Landed at 11pm and soon after started on at least a two mile march through trenches to No. 2 outpost. Rolled myself up in my overcoat and slept in a dugout. Very hard, cramped and cold so did not sleep much.
Fri 17 Sept 15
Up at 6am and enjoyed the view from the trenches. Drew rations and mess tins and then marched about a mile to rest station. Had to cross open country and the Turks let us have two shrapnel. One burst just over my head. I was near the end of the line and the other near the front of the line but no-one was hurt. Beautiful day and Gager and I set to and spent the rest of the day digging a dugout for ourselves. Made a beauty but it took some work. Shrapnel passing overhead nearly all day from our own guns and Turks. I duck every time but gradually getting used to it. We are behind a hill but a good stretch of flat ground and the beach in front of us which is open to Turkish fire and it is ugly to see the shrapnel burst when any men are about. Say it has been a very quiet day today, lively enough for me.
Sat 18 Sept 15
Beautiful morning, very quiet up till 9.30. At 9.30 sent to the No. 2 post to get Officers luggage but it had not arrived so tried to post letters but could not. Went back and at 10.45 Walley Brown, Gager and I were sent to Anzac for the luggage. It was most interesting. The first couple of miles through trenches and the next along the beach simply alive with men, piles of stores, men building wharves, railways, the Indian mule transports passing to and fro, wounded men waiting to go away, other men bathing. Arrived Anzac noon, sat down and had our lunch and then started a long search for the luggage. Found it at last, made some tea and started back at 2pm. Arrived back about 4.30 and had a well earned rest till tea time 5pm.
Had no sooner started tea and 'bang' and a very heavy outburst of rifle fire started at the back of us. The bullets started whistling over us so quickly got into our dugouts. Our batteries immediately got into action and a little destroyer came in close to the beach and joined in also. The Turks replied with high explosive and shrapnel but did not get our batteries. All these shells were passing over our heads and we had a lively half hour.
Sun 19 Sept 15
NZ’s were sent right up a valley, Chailak Dere, nearly to the front line. On the way we had to fill in some trenches and hop about and lie low under shrapnel fire aimed at some mules. We all got safely past Snipers Point and from there upwards for some distance we had to clear away and bury all refuse. All the while bullets were whistling overhead but we were safe. The NZ’s took all this ground. I don’t know how they did it. It’s awful country... Now lying in my dugout. Very hot and the flies are awful. There are millions of them wherever you go. You have to keep wagging your food about all the time or you would eat dozens of them. Most glorious moonlight night and for a wonder little firing.
Sat 25 Sept
Finished our excavation early and as I imagined I felt something crawling over me last night. I searched and found four big lice and 100’s of eggs. Went for some disinfectant and very much nearer than I care for a shrapnel burst. Gager discovered he has as many lice and eggs as I have so washed ourselves and clothes in disinfectant. I had to cut a lot of hair off but I am still afraid that I am in for a hot time, but nearly everyone has them.
Mon 4th Oct
About 8.30 a heavy artillery fire started and just when we had fallen in to do some work at 9am the rifle fire started and stray bullets started whistling overhead. We all made a rush for our dugouts and Casey the cook stated, ‘No dinner today boys. Come down off that skyline.’ Things are very lively now - bullets whistling, shells screeching and a continual thundering of bombs bursting behind us.