22nd Jan 1916. Local Soldier’s Experiences at the Dardanelles

LOCAL SOLDIER’S EXPERIENCES AT THE DARDANELLES.

AN INTERESTING DIARY.

Corpl H Berwick, of the King’s Own Royal Lancashire Regiment, has forwarded us his diary from the Europa Hospital, Gibraltar, recording his experiences with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. He is a native of Rugby, and has served seventeen years in the Army, during which time he has seen service in India and Burmah. He was present at the retreat from Mons, and the battles of the Aisne and Marne, and has since seen fighting in the Gallipoli Peninsula. He states that he kept the diary on small scraps of paper, and he has often had to write it under very heavy shell fire. On one occasion, while he was marching with his battalion to relieve some troops, he remembered, after they had covered several miles, that he had left his diary in his dug-out. Although it was raining very hard, he went back for the papers, which he rescued just in time, as his dug-out was flooded.

The first part of the diary is confined to incidents occurring on the outward journey, and the latter part to the return from the Peninsula to Gibraltar. The middle portion deals with incidents in the fighting on the Peninsula, and a few interesting extracts are appended :—

The writer states that early in October they landed at Suvla Bay, and adds: “ From what I saw of it, it must have been a very hot place where they made their landing.” On the following day he was posted to a company in the first line trenches. On one occasion a party of men were ordered to dig a well within the range of the Turks’ guns, and when they had taken their coats off for this operation the enemy opened a heavy fire on them. It was like hell for an hour, the troops rushing about to find cover, as there was none near the well; and as a result 12 men were killed and 19 wounded.

Turkish Attacks Repulsed.

“ On November 6th, at 9.20 p.m, the Turks made a very stubborn attack on our first line; they came three times, and on the third occasion they gained part of our trench ; at 3 a.m we counter attacked and retook the lost trench, with heavy casualties, and rain and hail stopped further heavy fighting. On the 7th they made an early morning attack under the star shells, but they did not get much further than our wire entanglements; our machine guns mowed the wire down as well as the Turks. On the 10th they made another stubborn attack on our trenches, and they were very plucky, as we out-numbered them by five to one. But still on they came, and we had orders not to fire until they were on the wire; then the Captain said “ Fire like hell !” and we did. They went down like skittles; we had about 16 machine guns in nice positions, and all through the day they were doing nothing but sniping. On the 11th the Turks attacked in large numbers, but our heavy naval guns surprised them, and very few of them got away.

“ On the 13th November, as I was passing through a traverse to get into a communication trench, I felt a nasty sting in the left hip. I did not attach much importance to it till the next morning, when I found I could hardly walk. I then discovered a large bruise on my hip, and found that a piece of a Turkish 11-inch shell had penetrated my haversack, gone through a pack of cards and a comb, eventually stopping at a large nickle spoon, which was badly bent. These I shall always keep as curios. I had a few narrow squeaks at Mons and on the Aisne, but not to compare with this incident.

“ On November 26th we had a large mail from home, with hundreds of parcels. When they were served out there was one for nearly every man. That was a glorious day, and the troops laid in their dug-outs all day, blowing big clouds of smoke from the Woodbines they had received from home.

A Hospital Shelled.

“ On the 27th a Battalion order was issued that all men who had only been inoculated once were to parade at the hospital. I was inoculated for the second time just before I left the boat, so I was lucky, because, although the Turks had never been known to fire on hospitals, as soon as these men were lined up outside they sent over eight shells from two guns about 900 yards away. These fell right in the centre of the group, and legs and arms were flying in all directions. You could not recognise some of the men. We buried seventeen of them that night, and there were also twelve severely wounded.”

The writer describes a combined bombardment by the British artillery and the ships off the coast, and says: “ It was like a living hell. You could not hear yourself speak, and after they had had an hour of it, it was some time before we could hear what one another wad talking about. It seemed as if the drums of our ears had gone. But it was a fine sight; the sky was lit up beautifully, and I think it accounted for a few. In the morning, on December 2nd, the Turks made an attack upon our left section of trenches, but, thanks to our machine guns, they were mown down like grass.”

“ Some ” Storm.

A terrible storm occurred on the 3rd December, and the writer says : “ After about two hours we were all standing in about three feet of water, with everything we possessed drifting down the trenches, just like a strong tide. Some of the boys lost their rifles, and at about 12, midnight, the parapets of almost every regiment caved in, and then there was nothing for it but to get out of the trenches and walk upon the top to keep oneself warm ; we had to chance whether the Turks fired or not. When it got a little light we could see that the Turks were doing exactly the same as we were. They must have been worse off than we were, as their position was in the centre of a very large hill, and we could plainly see that their trenches were overflowing, and that the water was running into our trenches. They did not fire on us, and some of our commanders gave the order to us not to fire upon them unless they fired upon us. Both parties were in this position for about five hours.” He adds that shortly afterwards it commenced to freeze very hard, and many of the men, who were suffering with frost-bite, were ordered to the field hospitals. He himself was taken on a stretcher to the hospital, suffering from rheumatic fever. On the way to the hospital they passed many men who had died from exposure.

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