Part 1 out of 3
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AT SUVLA BAY
BEING THE NOTES AND SKETCHES OF
SCENES, CHARACTERS AND ADVENTURES
OF THE DARDANELLES CAMPAIGN
("White Fox" of "The Scout ")
WHILE SERVING WITH THE 32ND FIELD AMBULANCE,
X DIVISION, MEDITERRANEAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE,
DURING THE GREAT WAR
We played at Ali Baba,
On a green linoleum floor;
Now we camp near Lala Baba,
By the blue Aegean shore.
We sailed the good ship Argus,
Behind the studio door;
Now we try to play at "Heroes"
By the blue Aegean shore.
We played at lonely Crusoe,
In a pink print pinafore;
Now we live like lonely Crusoe,
By the blue Aegean shore.
We used to call for "Mummy,"
In nursery days of yore;
And still we dream of Mother,
By the blue Aegean shore.
While you are having holidays,
With hikes and camps galore;
We are patching sick and wounded,
By the blue Aegean shore.
Salt Lake Dug-out,
September 12th, 1915.
Bair or bahir--spur.
Dere--valley or stream.
Liman--bay or harbour.
I. IN WHICH MY KING AND COUNTRY NEED ME
II. A LONG WAY TO TIPPERARY
V. I HEAR OF HAWK
VI. ON THE MOVE
VII. MEDITERRANEAN NIGHTS
VIII. THE CITY OF WONDERFUL COLOUR
IX. MAROONED ON LEMNOS ISLAND
X. THE NEW LANDING
XI. THE KAPANJA SIRT
XII. THE SNIPER-HUNT
XIII. THE ADVENTURE OF THE WHITE PACK-MULE
XIV. THE SNIPER OF PEAR-TREE GULLY
XV. KANGAROO BEACH
XVI. THE ADVENTURE OF THE LOST SQUADS
XVII. "OH, TO BE IN ENGLAND!"
XVIII. TWO MEN RETURN
XIX. THE RETREAT
XX. "JHILL-O! JOHNNIE!"
XXI. SILVER BAY
XXII. DUG-OUT YARNS
XXIII. THE WISDOM OF FATHER S----
XXIV. THE SHARP-SHOOTERS
XXV. A SCOUT AT SULVA BAY
XXVI. THE BUSH-FIRES
XXVII. THE DEPARTUR
XXVIII. LOOKING BACK
AT SUVLA BAY
IN WHICH MY KING AND COUNTRY NEED ME
I left the office of The Scout, 28 Maiden Lane, W.C., on September
8th, 1914, took leave of the editor and the staff, said farewell to my
little camp in the beech-woods of Buckinghamshire and to my woodcraft
scouts, bade good-bye to my father, and went off to enlist in the
Royal Army Medical Corps.
I made my way to the Marylebone recruiting office, and after waiting
about for hours, I went at last upstairs and "stripped out" with a lot
of other men for the medical examination.
The smell of human sweat was overpowering in the little ante-room.
Some of the men had hearts and anchors and ships and dancing-girls
tattooed in blue on their chests and arms. Some were skinny and others
too fat. Very few looked fit. I remarked upon the shyness they
suffered in walking about naked.
"Did yer pass?"
"No, 'e spotted it," said the dejected rejected.
"Got through, Alf?"
"No: eyesight ain't good enough."
So it went on for half-an-hour.
Then came my turn.
"Ha!" said the little doctor, "this is the sort we want," and he
rubbed his gold-rimmed glasses on his handkerchief. "Chest, thirty-
four--thirty-seven," said the doctor, tapping with his tape-measure,
"How did yer do that?"
"What, sir?" said I, gasping, for I was trying to blow my chest out,
"Had breathing exercises?"
"No, sir--I'm a scout."
"Ha!" said he, and noticed my knees were brown with sunburn because I
always wore shorts.
I passed the eyesight test, and they took my name down, and my
address, occupation and age.
"Ever bin in the army before?"
"Ever bin in prison?"
"What's yer religion?"
"Nothing at all."
"Ah, but you've got to 'ave one in the army."
"Yes, you must. Wot's it to be--C. of E.?"
"What d'you mean?"
"Church of England. Most of 'em do."
Awful thoughts of church parade flashed through my mind.
"Right you are--Quaker!" said I.
"Quaker! Is that a religion?" he asked doubtfully.
I watched him write it down.
"Right, that'll do. Report at Munster Road recruiting station, Fulham,
We were all dressed by this time. After a lot more waiting about
outside in a yard, a sergeant came and took about eight of us into a
room where there was a table and some papers and an officer in khaki.
I spotted a Bible on the table. We had to stand in a row while he read
a long list of regulations in which we were made to promise to obey
all orders of officers and non-commissioned officers of His Majesty's
Service. After that, he told us he would swear us in. We had to hold
up the right hand above the head, and say, all together:
I immediately realised that I had taken an oath, which was not in
accordance with my regimental religion!
No sooner were we let out than I began to feel the ever-tightening
tangle of red tape.
What the dickens had I enlisted for? I asked myself. I had lost all my
old-time freedom: I could no longer go on in my old camping and
sketching life. I was now a soldier--a "tommy"--a "private." I loathed
the army. What a fool I was!
The next day I reported at Fulham. More hours of waiting. I discovered
an old postman who had also enlisted in the R.A.M.C., and as he "knew
the ropes" I stuck to him like a leech. In the afternoon an old
recruiting sergeant with a husky voice fell us in, and we marched, a
mob of civilians, through the London streets to the railway station.
Although this was quite a short distance, the sergeant fell us out
near a public-house, and he and a lot more disappeared inside.
What a motley crowd we were: clerks in bowler hats; "knuts" in brown
suits, brown ties, brown shoes, and a horse-shoe tie-pin; tramp-like
looking men in rags and tatters and smelling of dirt and beer and rank
Old soldiers trying to "chuck a chest"; lanky lads from the country
gaping at the houses, shops and people.
Rough, broad-speaking, broad-shouldered men from the Lancashire
cotton-mills; shop assistants with polished boots, and some even with
kid gloves and a silver-banded cane. Here and there was a farm-hand in
corduroys and hob-nailed, cowdung-spattered boots, puffing at a broken
old clay pipe, and speaking in the "Darset" dialect. At the station
they had to have another "wet" in the refreshment room, and by the
time the train was due to start a good many were "canned up."
Boozy voices yelled out--
"'S long way . . . Tipper-airy . . ."
"Good-bye, Bill . . . 'ave . . . 'nother swig?"
"Don't ferget ter write, Bill . . ."
"Aw-right, Liz . . . Good-bye, Albert . . ."
We were locked in the carriage. There was much shouting and laughing.
. . . And so to Aldershot.
A LONG WAY TO TIPPERARY
Aldershot was a seething swarm of civilians who had enlisted. Every
class and every type was to be seen. We found out the R.A.M.C. depot
and reported. A man sat at an old soapbox with a lot of papers, and we
had to file past him. This was in the middle of a field with row upon
row of bell-tents.
"Name?" he snapped.
I told him.
"Right!--Quaker Oats!--Section 'E,' over there."
But my old postman knew better, and, having found out where "Section
E" was camped, we went off up the town to look for lodging for the
night, knowing that in such a crowd of civilians we could not be
At last we found a pokey little house where the woman agreed to let us
stay the night and get some breakfast next day.
That night was fearful. We had to sleep in a double bed, and it was
full of fleas. The moonlight shone through the window. The shadow of a
barrack-room chimney-pot slid slowly across my face as the hours
We got up about 5.30 A.M., so as to get down to the parade-ground in
time for the "fall in."
We washed in a tiny scullery sink downstairs. There was a Pears'
Annual print of an old fisherman telling a story to a little girl
stuck over the mantelpiece.
We had eggs and bread-and-butter and tea for breakfast, and I think
the woman only charged us three shillings all told.
Once down at the parade-ground we looked about for "Section E" and
found their lines in the hundreds of rows of bell-tents.
Life for the next few days was indeed "hand to mouth." We had to go on
a tent-pitching fatigue under a sergeant who kept up a continual flow
of astoundingly profane oaths.
Food came down our lines but seldom. When it did come you had to fetch
it in a huge "dixie" and grope with your hands at the bits of gristle
and bone which floated in a lot of greasy water. Some one bought a box
of sardines in the next tent.
"Goin' ter share 'em round?" said a hungry voice.
"Nah blooming fear I ain't--wot yer tike me for--eh?"
Every one was starving. I had managed to fish a lump of bone with a
scrag of tough meat on it from the lukewarm slosh in our "dixie." But
some one who was very hungry and very big came along and snatched it
away before I could get my teeth in it.
We had continually to "fall in" in long rows and answer our names.
This was "roll-call," and roll-call went on morning, noon, and night.
Even when your own particular roll-call was not being called you could
hear some other corporal or sergeant shouting--
"Jones F.--Wiggins, T.--Simons, G.-- Harrison, I. . . ." and so on all
There were no ground-sheets to the tents. We squatted in the mud, and
we had one blanket each, which was simply crawling.
We were indeed in a far worse condition than many savages. Then came
the rain. We huddled into the tents. There were twenty-two in mine,
and, as a bell-tent is full up with eighteen, you may imagine how
thick the atmosphere became. One old man would smoke his clay-pipe
with choking twist tobacco. Most of the others smoked rank and often
damp "woodbines." The language was thick with grumbling and much
swearing. At first it was not so bad. But some one touched the side of
the tent and the rain began to dribble through. Then we found a tiny
stream of wet slowly trickling along underneath the tent-walls towards
the tent-pole, and by night time we were lying and sitting in a pool
About a week later when the sergeant-major told us on parade that we
were "going to Tipperary" we all laughed, and no one believed it.
But the next day they marched us down to the Government siding and
locked us all in a train, which took us right away to Fishguard.
Some of the men got some bread-and-cheese before starting, but I, in
company with a good many others, did not.
The boat was waiting when they bundled us out on the quay.
It was a cattle-boat and very small and very smelly. There were no
cabins or accommodation of any sort: only the cattle-stalls down
below. Six hundred of us got aboard. Out of the six hundred, five
hundred were sick. It was a very rough crossing, and we were all
starving and shivering. I had nothing but what I stood up in--shirt,
shorts, and cowboy-hat, and my old haversack, which contained soap,
towel and razor, and also a sketch-book and a small colour-box.
The Irish sea-winds whistled up my shorts-- but I preferred the icy
wind to the stinking cattle-stalls and insect-infested straw below. We
were packed in like sardines. Men were retching and groaning, cussing
and growling. At last I found a coil of rope. It was a huge coil with
a hole in the centre--something like a large bird's nest. I got into
this hole and curled up like a dormouse. Here I did not feel the cold
so much, and lying down I didn't feel sick. The moon glittered on the
great gray billows. The cattle-boat heaved up and slid down the
mountains. She pitched and rolled and slithered sideways down the
wave-slopes. And so to Waterford.
From Waterford by train to Tipperary. It was early morning. The first
thing I noticed was that the grass in Ireland was very green and that
the fields were very small.
We had had no food for twenty-seven hours. I found a very hard crust
of bread in my haversack, and eat it while the others were asleep in
"Off with his head," said the Queen.--Alice in Wonderland.
"Charge against 31963--
Failing to drink some oniony tea;
I can have you SHOT!
D'you realise that
I can have you lashed
To a wheel and smashed?
D'you realise this?
Lemnos: October 1915.
Born and bred in a studio, and brought up among the cloud-swept
mountains of Westmorland, amid the purple heather and the sunset in
the peat-moss puddles, barrack-life soon became like penal servitude.
I was like a caged wild animal. I knew now why the tigers and leopards
pace up and down, up and down, behind their bars at the Zoo.
We only stayed a week in the great, gray, prison-like barracks at
Tipperary. We looked about for the "sweetest girl" of the song--but
the "colleens" were disappointing. My heart was not "right there." We
moved to Limerick; and in Limerick we stopped for seven solid months.
For seven months we did the same old squad- drill every day, at the
same time, on the same old square, until at last we all began to be
unbearably "fed up." The sections became slack at drill because they
were over-drilled and sickened by the awful monotony of it all.
During those seven dreary months, in that dismal slum-grown town, we
learnt all the tricks of barrack-life. We knew how to "come the old
soldier"; we knew how and when to "wangle out" of doing this or that
fatigue; we practised the ancient art of "going sick" when we knew a
long route march was coming off next day.
We knew how to "square" the guard if we came in late, and the others
learnt how to dodge church parade.
"'E never goes to church parade."
"No; 'e was a fly one--'e was."
"Put 'isself down as Quaker."
"Lummy--that's me next time I 'list-- Quaker Oats!"
By this time I had been promoted to the rank of corporal.
Next to the regimental sergeant-major, I had the loudest drill voice
on the square, and shouting at squad-drill and stretcher- drill was
about the only thing I ever did well in the army--except that, having
been a scout, I was able to instruct the signalling squad.
Route marches and field-days were a relief from the drill square. For
five months we got no issue of khaki. Many of the men were through at
the knees, and tattered at the elbows. Some were buttonless and
patched. I had to put a patch in my shorts. Our civilian boots were
wearing out--some were right through. Heels came off when they "right
turned," others had their soles flapping as they marched.
My "batman," who cleaned my boots and swept out the bunk, had his
trousers held together with a huge safety-pin. The people called us
"Kitchener's Rag-time Army." We became so torn, and worn, and ragged,
that it was impossible to go out in the town. Being the only one in
scout rig-out I drew much attention.
"'Ere 'e comes, Moik-ell!"
"Kitchener's cowboy! Isn't he lovely!"
"Come an' see Path-rick--Kitchener's cowboy!--by-the-holy-sufferin'-
I found an old curio-shop down near the docks, and here I used to
rummage among the gilded Siamese idols, and the painted African gods
and drums. I discovered some odd parts of A Thousand-and-One Arabian
Nights, which I bought for a penny or two, and took back to my
barrack-room to read. By this means I forgot the gray square, and the
gray line of the barracks outside, and the bare boards and yellow-
washed walls within.
I used to practise "slipping" the guard at the guard-room gate. This
form of amusement became quite exciting, and I was never caught at it.
Next I got a very old and worn copy of the Koran.
By this time I was a full-blown sergeant. I made a mistake in walking
into the sergeants' mess with the Koran under my arm. It was difficult
to explain what sort of book it was. One day the regimental sergeant-
"You know, Hargrave, I can't make you out."
"No;--you're not a soldier, you never will be--you act the part pretty
well. But you don't take things seriously enough."
We were often out on the Clare Mountains for field-days with the
stretcher-squads. Coming back one day, I spotted two herons wading
among some yellow-ochre sedges in a swampy field. I determined there
and then to come back and stalk them. The following Saturday I set out
with a fellow we called "Cherry Blossom," because he never cleaned his
boots. I took a pair of field-glasses, and "Cherry" had a bag of
pastries, which we bought on the way. We stalked those herons for
hours and hours. We crept through the reeds, hid behind trees, and
crawled into bushes, but the herons were better scouts. We only got
about fifty yards up to one. For all that, it was like my old scout
life--and we had had a break from the gray walls and the everlasting
saluting of officers.
There were rumours of war, and that's all we knew of it. There were
fresh rumours each day. We were going to Egypt. We were to be sent to
the East Coast for "home defence." That offended our martial ardour.
When were we going out? Should we ever get out? Had we got to do squad
drill for "duration"? Had Kitchener forgotten the Xth Division?
Now and then a batch of men were put into khaki which arrived at the
quartermaster's stores in driblets. Some had greeny puttees and sandy
slacks, a "civvy" coat and a khaki cap. Others were rigged out in
"Kitchener's workhouse blue," with little forage caps on one side. The
sprinkling of khaki and khaki-browns and greens increased every time
we came on parade: until one day the whole of the three field
ambulances were fitted out.
The drill went on like clockwork. It was as if some curse had fallen
upon us. The officers were "fed up" you could see.
And now, just a word as to army methods. Immediately opposite the
barracks was a cloth factory, which was turning out khaki uniforms for
the Government every day.
For five months we went about in civilian clothes. We were a disgrace
as we marched along. Yet because no order had been given to that
factory to supply us with uniforms, we had to wait till the uniforms
had been shipped to England, and then sent back to Ireland for us
The spark of patriotism which was in each man when he enlisted was
dead. We detested the army, we hated the routine, we were sickened and
dulled and crushed by drill.
The old habit of being always on the alert for anything picturesque
saved me from idiotcy. Whenever opportunity offered, or whenever I
could take French leave, I went off with sketchbook and pencil, and
forgot for a time the horror of barrack-room life, with its unending
flow of filthy language, and its barren desolation of yellow-washed
walls and broken windows.
And then we moved to Dublin.
It may be very amusing to read about "Kipps" and those commonplace
people whom Mr. H.G. Wells describes so cleverly, but to have to live
with them in barracks is far from pleasant.
There were shop-assistants, dental mechanics, city clerks, office
boys, medical students, and a whole mass of very ordinary, very
uninteresting people. There was a fair sprinkling of mining engineers
and miners, and these men were more interesting and of a far stronger
mental and physical development. They were huge, full-chested, strong-
armed men who swore and drank heavily, but were honest and straight.
There were characters here from the docks and from the merchant
service, some of whom had surely been created for W.W. Jacobs. One in
particular--Joe Smith, a sailor-man (an engine-greaser, I think)--was
full of queer yarns and seafaring talk. He was a little man with beady
eyes and a huge curled moustache. He walked about quickly, with the
seamen's lurch, as I have noticed most seagoing men of the merchant
This man "came up" in bell-bottomed trousers and a pea jacket. He was
fond of telling a yarn about a vessel which was carrying a snake in a
crate from the West Indies. This snake got into the boiler when they
were cleaning out the engine-room.
"The capt'in ses to me, 'Joe.' I ses, 'Yes-sir.' 'Joe,' says 'e,
'wot's to be done?'
"'Why,' ses I, 'thing is ter git this 'ere snake out ag'in!'
"'Jistso,' says the capt'in; 'but 'oo' ter do it?'--'E always left
everythink ter me--and I ses, 'Why, sir, it's thiswise, if sobe all
the others are afeared, I ain't, or my name's Double Dutch.'
"'Very good, melad,' ses the capt'in, 'I relies on you, Joe.'--'E
always did--and would you believe it, I upped an' 'ooked that there
great rattlesnake out of the boiler with an old hum-brella!"
There was a clerk who stood six-foot eight who was something of a
"knut." He told me that at home he belonged to a "Lit'ry Society," and
I asked him what books they had and which he liked.
"Books?" he asked. "'Ow d'yow mean?"
"You said a Literary Society, didn't you?"
"Oh yes, we 'ave got books. But, you know, we go down there and 'ave a
concert, or read the papers, and 'ave a social, perhaps, you know;
sometimes ask the girls round to afternoon tea."
I had a barrack-room full of these people to look after. Most of them
got drunk. Once a young medical student tried to knife me with a
Chinese jack-knife which his uncle, a missionary, had given him. He
had "downed" too much whisky. Just as boys do at school, so these men
formed into cliques, and "hung together" in twos and threes.
Some of them, like the "lit'ry society" clerk, had never seen much of
life or people; had lived in a little suburban villa and pretended to
be "City men." Others had knocked about all over the world. These were
mostly seafaring men. Savage was such a one. He was one of the
buccaneer type, strong and sunburnt, with tattooed arms. Often he sang
an old sea-song, which always ended, "Forty-five fadom, and a clear
sandy bottom!" He knew most of the sea chanties of the old days, one
of which went something in this way--
"Heave away Rio! Heave away Rio!
So fare thee well, my sweet pretty maid!
Heave away Rio! Heave away Rio!
For there's plenty of gold--so we've been told--
On the banks of the Sacrament--o!"
An old Irish apple-woman used to come into the barracks, and sit by
the side of the parade ground with two baskets of apples and a box of
She did a roaring trade when we were dismissed from drill.
We always addressed her as "Mother." She looked se witch-like that one
day I asked--
"Can you tell a fortune, Mother?"
"Lord-love-ye, no! Wad ye have the Cuss o' Jazus upon us all? Ye shud
see the priest, sor."
"And can he?"
"No, Son! All witch-craftin' is forbid in the Book by the Holy Mother
o' Gord, so they do be tellin' me."
"Can no one in all Ireland read a fortune now, Mother?"
"Ach, Son, 'tis died out, sure. Only in the old out-an'-away parts
'tis done; but 'tis terrible wicked!"
She was a good bit of colour. I have her still in my pocket-book. Her
black shawl with her apples will always remind me of early barrack-
days at Limerick if I live to be ninety.
I HEAR OF HAWK
Seldom are we lucky enough to meet in real life a character so strong
and vivid, so full of subtle characteristics, that his appearance in a
novel would make the author's name. Such a character was Hawk.
When you consider, you find that many an author of note has made a
lasting reputation by evolving some such character; and in most cases
this character has been "founded on fact." For example, Stevenson's
"Long John Silver," Kipling's "Kim," and Rider Haggard's "Alan
Had Kipling met Hawk he would have worked him into a book of Indian
soldier life; for Hawk was full of jungle adventures and stories of
the Indian Survey Department and the Khyber Pass; while his
descriptions of Kashmir and Secunderabad, with its fakirs and
jugglers, monkey temples and sacred bulls, were superb.
On the other hand, Haggard would have placed him "somewhere in
Africa," a strong, hard man trekking across the African veldt he knew
so well; for Hawk had been in the Boer War.
Little did I realise when I met him on the barrack-square at Limerick
how fate would throw us together upon the scorching sands and rocky
ridges of Gallipoli, nor could either of us foresee the hairbreadth
escapes and queer corners in which we found ourselves at Suvla Bay and
on the Serbian frontier.
I spotted him in the crowd as the only man on parade with a strong,
clear-cut face. I noted his drooping moustache, and especially his
keen grey eyes, which glittered and looked through and through.
Somewhere, I told myself, there was good blood at the back of beyond
on his line of descent. I was right, for, as he told me later, when I
had come to know him as a trusty friend, he came from a Norseman
stock. The jaw was too square and heavy, but the high-built chiselled
nose and the deep-set clear grey eyes were a "throw-back" on the old
Viking trail. Although dressed in ragged civilian clothes he looked a
huge, full-grown, muscular man; active and well developed, with the
arms of a miner and the chest of a gorilla. On one arm I remember he
had a heart with a dagger through it tattooed in blue and red.
I heard of him first as one to be shunned and feared. For it was said
that "when in drink" he would pick up the barrack-room fender with one
hand and hurl it across the room. I was told that he was a master of
the art of swearing--that he could pour forth a continual flow of
oaths for a full five minutes without repeating one single "cuss."
My interest was immediately aroused. I smelt adventure, and I was on
the adventure trail. Hawk was not in my barrack-room, and therefore I
knew but little of him while in the old country. I heard that he had
been galloper-dispatch-rider to Lord Kitchener in South Africa, and I
tried to get him to talk about it. As an "artist's model," for a
canvas to be called "The Buccaneer," Hawk was perfect. I never saw a
man so splendidly developed.
And Hawk was fifty years old! You would take him for thirty-nine or
But "drink and the devil had done for the rest"--Hawk himself
acknowledged it. His vices were the vices of a strong man, and when he
was drunk he was "the very devil."
He was "the old soldier," and knew all the ins and outs of army life.
I quickly became entangled in the interest of unravelling his complex
nature. On the one hand he was said to be a desperado and double-dyed
liar. On the other hand, if he respected you, he would always tell you
the naked truth, and would never "let you down." He knew drink was his
ruin, but he could not and would not stop it. Yet his advice to me was
always good. Indeed, although he had the reputation of a bold, bad
blackguard, he never led any one else on the "wrong trail," and his
advice to young soldiers in the barrack-rooms was wonderfully clear
If he respected you, you could trust your life with him. If he didn't,
you could "look up" for trouble. He was honest and "square"--if he
liked you--but he could make things disappear by "sleight of hand" in
a manner worthy of a West End conjurer.
He was a miner, and had a sound knowledge of mining and practical
geology which many a science-master might have been proud of. He had
the eyes of a trained observer, and I afterwards discovered he was a
Some months later, when the A.S.C. ambulance drivers were exercising
their horses, he showed himself a good rough-rider, and I recalled his
"galloper" days. And again at Lemnos and Suvla he was a splendid
swimmer. He was an all-round man. Unlike the other men in barracks--
the shop assistants and clerks--Hawk never missed noticing small
things, and it was this which first drew my attention to him.
I remember one night hearing a woman's voice wailing a queer Hindoo
chant. It came from the barrack-room door. Afterwards I discovered it
was Hawk sitting on his trestle bed cross-legged, with a bit of
sacking and ashes on his head imitating the death-wail of an Indian
woman for her dead husband.
Hawk knew all the rites and ceremonies of the various Hindoo castes,
and could act the part of a fakir or a bazaar-wullah with wonderful
By turns Hawk was a heavy drinker and a clear-brained man of action,
calm in danger.
In those early days of my "military career" I looked upon him only as
an author looks upon an interesting character.
Months afterwards, on the death-swept peninsula, Hawk and I became
fast friends. The "bad man" of the ambulance became the most useful,
most faithful, in my section. We went everywhere together--like
"Horace and Holly" of Rider Haggard fame: he the great, strong man,
and I the young artist scout.
If Hawk was out of camp, you could bet I was also--and vice-versa.
Of Hawk more anon.
ON THE MOVE
We moved to Dublin after seven months of drill and medical lectures in
barracks at Limerick.
After about a fortnight in the Portobello Barracks we crossed to
England and pitched our camp at Basingstoke. Here we had two or three
months' divisional training. The whole of the Xth Division--about
25,000 men--used to turn out for long route-marches.
We were out in all weathers. We took no tents, and "slept out." This
was nothing to me, as I had done it on my own when scouting hundreds
of times. It amused me to hear the men grumbling about the hard
ground, and to see them rubbing their hips when they got up. It was a
hard training. Still we didn't seem to be going out, and once again,
the novelty of a new place having worn off, we became unspeakably
Here at Basingstoke we were inspected by the King, and later by Lord
Then came the issue of pith helmets and khaki drill uniforms, and the
Red Cross brassards on the left arm.
Rumour ran riot. We were going to India; we were going to East Africa
. . . some one even mentioned Japan! There was a new rumour each day.
Then one day, at brief notice, we were quietly entrained at
Basingstoke and taken down to the docks at Devonport before anyone had
wind of the matter.
All our ambulance wagons, and field medical equipment in wickerwork
panniers, went with us, and it would astonish a civilian to see the
amount of stores and Red Cross materials with which a field ambulance
moves. And so, after much waiting about, aboard the Canada.
Intricate and vivid detail leave a more startling imprint on the
memory-film than the main purport of any great adventure, whether it
be a polar expedition, a new discovery, or such a stupendous
undertaking as that in which we were now involved.
The fact of our departure had been carefully kept quiet, and our
destination was unknown. It might have been a secret expedition in
search of buried treasure. Yet, in spite of all precaution, we might
be torpedoed at any moment and go down with all hands, or strike a
mine and be blown up. We knew that victory or defeat were hanging in
the balance, and perhaps the destiny of nations. But while the
magnitude of the venture has left no impression--I cannot recall that
we ever spoke about it--commonplace details remain.
The pitch bubbling in the seams under a Mediterranean sun; the queer
iridescent shapes of glowing, greenish phosphorus in the nighttime
sea; the butter melting into yellow oil on the plate on the saloon
table; the sickly smell of steam and grease and oil from the engine-
room; the machine gun fixed at the stern with its waterproof hood; the
increasing brilliance of the stars, and the rapid descent of evening
upon the splendid colour-prism of a Mediterranean sunset--these, and
thousands of other intimate commonplaces, are inlaid for ever in my
We went about in our shirts and drill "slacks," and the scorching
boards of the deck blistered our naked feet. In a few days we became
sun-tanned. Each one of us had a sunburnt V-shaped triangle on the
chest where we left our shirts open.
The voyage was uneventful. The food was poor. There was very little
fresh water to drink. It was July. The heat was fatiguing, and the
The coast of Algeria on our right looked bare and terribly forsaken.
It had an awfulness about it--a mystery look; it looked like a "juju"
country, with its sandy spit running like a narrow ribbon to the blue
sea, and its hazy, craggy mountains quivering in the noonday heat.
Hawk and I were in the habit of coming up from our bunks in the
evening. We used to lean over the handrail and watch the wonder of a
Mediterranean sunset transform in schemes of peacock-blue and beetle-
green, down and down, through emerald, pale gold and lemon yellow, and
so to the horizon of the inland sea, in bands of deep chrome and
orange, scarlet, mauve and purple.
Hawk was the only man I discovered in all those hundreds of apparently
commonplace souls who could really appreciate and never tire of
watching and discussing these things.
I had often heard of the blue of the Mediterranean. But I must confess
that I rather thought it had been exaggerated by authors, artists and
poets as a fruitful and beautiful source of inspiration.
I never saw such blues before: electric-blue and deep, seething navy
blue, flecked with foam and silver spray; calm lapis-lazuli blue; a
sort of greeny, mummy-case blue; flashing, silk-shot blue, like a
kingfisher's feathers. Sometimes the sea was as calm as a mill-pond,
and you could see down and down and down.
There is a certain milky look in the waters of the Mediterranean which
I never saw anywhere else. What it is I do not know, but it hangs in
the water like a cloud. Once there was a shoal of porpoises playing
round us, and they curled and dived and flopped in the warm blue seas.
At night Hawk and I stood for hours watching first one constellation
"light up," and then another, till the whole purple-velvet of the
Mediterranean night sky was pinholed with the old familiar star-
It struck me as most extraordinary, and almost uncanny, to see the
same old stars we knew in England, still above us, so many hundred
miles from home.
Phosphorescent fragments went floating along beneath us like bits of
In watching and talking of these things, I quickly perceived in Hawk a
man who not only noticed small detail and took a real interest in
Nature, but one who had a sound, natural philosophy and a good idea of
the reasonable and scientific explanation of things which so many
people either ignore or look upon as "atheistic."
We did not yet know whither we were sailing. We knew we were part of
the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, and that was all.
One day we put in at Malta.
Here the fruit-boats, all painted green and red and white and blue,
came rowing out to meet us. The Maltese who manned them stood upto row
their oars-and rowed the right way forwards, instead of facing the
wrong way, as we do in England. They were selling tomatoes and pears,
apples, chocolate, cigars, cigarettes, Turkish delight, and lace.
Continually they cried their goods-
One man recognised us as the Irish Division, and shouted--
"Irish! Irish! My father Irish--from Dundee!"
Here were diving-boys in their own tiny boats, diving for pennies.
They were wonderfully lithe and graceful, with sun-tanned limbs and
dripping black hair.
Here, too, was a huge old man, who was also diving for pennies and
tins of bully-beef. He was fat and sun-browned, and his muscles and
chest were well developed.
"Me dive for bully-beef!" he shouted. "Me dive for bully-beef!"
Never once did he fail to retrieve these tins when they were chucked
The tomatoes were very large and ripe, and the tobacco and cigarettes
exceedingly cheap and good. Most of the men got a stock.
The next day we put to sea again.
It was a real voyage of adventure, for here we were, on an unknown
course, sailing under sealed orders, no one knew whither, nor did we
know what would be the climax to this great enterprise.
Would any of us ever return across those blue-green waters? . . . Or
would our bones lie, a few days hence, bleaching on the yellow sands?
. . . Mystery and adventure sailed with us--and each day the heat
increased. The sun blazed from a brazen sky, the shadow of the
halyards and the great ventilators were clear-cut black silhouettes
upon the baking decks.
The decks were crammed with that same khaki crowd of civilians who had
cursed and sworn and drilled and growled for ten long months in the
Old Country. You imagine what desperate adventurers they had suddenly
become. Some had never been out of Ireland, others had been as far as
Portsmouth, and taken a return voyage to the Isle of Wight. And each
day we zigzagged across the blue seas towards some unknown Fate . . .
death, perhaps . . . victory or failure--who could tell?
Until one day a thin, yellowish-white streak appeared upon the sea-
line; little groups of palms huddled together, and here and there a
white dome or a needle-minaret. And so we warped into harbour, through
the boom and past the Iightships, to join the crowd of transports and
battle cruisers lying off this muddled city--the city of wonderful
THE CITY OF WONDERFUL COLOUR: ALEXANDRIA
Flashing like a magic screen.
Richly woven gown;
Flashing like a pantomime,
In and out Aladdin's town.
Drooping lash and ebon curl.
Queersome figures prowling round,
From some kiddies' picture-book.
J. H., October 1915.
The coal-yards and dingy quays looked gray and chill. Here were
gray-painted Government sheds, with white numbers on the sliding
doors, dull gray trucks, and dirty sidings.
A couple of Egyptian native police in khaki drill, brown belts,
side-arms, red fezes, and carrying canes, both smoking cigarettes,
swaggered up and down in front of an arc-light.
There were dump-yards and gray tin offices, rusty cranes, and a gray
floating quay. Gangs of Egyptian beggars in ragged clothes and a flock
of little brown children continually dodged the native police as we
sailed slowly through the docks. They were the only touch of colour in
a muddle of Government buildings, stores, and transport ships.
We were all crowding to the handrail looking overboard. The Egyptian
sunset had just vanished and the deep blue of an Eastern night held
the docks in a haze of gloom.
The pipe band of the Inniskillings was playing "The Wearin' o' the
Green" in that mournful, gurgling chant which we came to know so well.
One of the little Egyptian beggar-girls was dancing to it on the
floating quay down below us by the flicker of the arc-lamp. She was a
tiny mite, with a shock of black hair and brown face and arms. She
wore a pink dress with some brass buttons hung round her neck. She
danced with all the supple gracefulness of the out-door tribes of the
desert, never out of step, always true and rhythmic in every motion of
arms and body.
When the pipes on board trailed away with a hiss of wind and a
choking, gurgling noise into silence the little dancing girl began to
sing in a deep, musical voice--the voice of one who has lived out-of-
doors in tents--
"Itta long way--Tipple-airy!
--Long way to go!
Sweetie girl I know! . . ."
She sang in broken English, and danced to the tune, which she knew
The khaki crowd aboard whistled and cheered and laughed. Some one
threw a penny. The whole gang of beggars scrambled after it, and there
ensued a scrimmage with much shouting and swearing in Arabic.
We could see the city lit up beyond the dull gray docks.
Next morning we went for a route march through Alexandria. We marched
through the dockyards. Gangs of native workmen in native costume-
coloured robes and bare feet, turbans and red fezes--were working on
the transports, unloading box after box of bully-beef and biscuit and
piling them in huge "dumps" on the quays. Rusty chains clanked, steam
cranes rattled and puffed out whiffs of white steam.
But they did not hustle or hurry. They worked under the direction of
English sergeants and officers, loading and unloading.
At last we got outside the zone of awful ugliness which follows the
British wherever they go. The docks were left behind and the change
was sudden and startling.
It was like putting down a novel by Arnold Bennett and taking up the
I did not trouble to keep in step or "cover off." My eyes were trying
to take in the splendid Eastern scenes. Here were figures which had
come right out of the Arabian Nights.
Was that not Haroun Al Raschid, Commander of the Faithful, disguised
as a water-carrier, with a goatskin bottle slung over his shoulder,
and great yellow baggy trousers and a striped cummerbund?
Here were veiled women and old men squatting under their open bazaar
fronts, with coloured mats and blinds strung across the narrow
streets. Fruit sellers surrounded by melons, and beans, tomatoes and
figs and dates--a jumble of colour, orange, scarlet, green, and gold.
Pitchers and jars and woven carpets; queer Eastern scents; shuttered
windows and flat roofs, mules and here and there a loaded camel, two
Jews in black robes, a band of wild- looking desert wanderers in white
with hoods and veils.
Egyptian women carrying little brown babies; who would believe there
could be such figures, such colour and picturesque compositions?
It was a short march, but we saw much.
So this was the land of Egypt. It was good. What a pity we could see
so little of it . . .
There were very smartly dressed French women with faces powdered and
painted and scented. Old men with hollow eyes and yellow parchment
skins all creased and wrinkled squatted on the cobble-stones, smoking
hubble-bubbles and long ivory-stemmed pipes.
Arab boys selling oranges ran about the streets. The heat was
stifling--the shadows purple-black, the sunlight glared golden-white
on the buildings and towers and minarets.
Here were curio-shops with queer oriental carvings and alabaster
It was like a chapter of my _Thousand-and-One Nights_ come true, and I
remembered the gray barracks at Limerick and the incessant drill.
At last we marched back through the docks and aboard the Canada. Next
morning we were sailing far away upon a blue sea. Just a glimpse of
the city of wonderful colour and we were once more creeping closer and
closer to the mystery of our unknown venture.
Many of us would never pass that way again--and each one wondered
sometimes if he would be claimed by that Mechanical Death which none
of us fully realised.
Only a few short hours--a day or two longer--and we should be plunged
into battle. A bullet for one, shrapnel for another, dysentery for a
third, a bayonet or death from weakness and starvation.
The great game of luck was gathering faster and faster. We loafed
about on deck and wondered where we were going and what it would be
like . . . our minds were thinking of the immediate future. Each one
tried to make out he didn't care, but each one was thinking upon the
same subject--his luck, fate, kismet. How many would return to old
England--should I be one; or would the Eastern sunshine blaze down
upon my decomposing body on some barren sandy shore?
We passed many of the Greek Islands--some came up pink and mauve out
of the sea, others were green with vineyards; once or twice a little
triangular-sailed boat bobbed along the coast.
The uncertainty was a strain, and we felt utterly cut off, until at
last we sighted a sandy streak, and later a line of volcanic-looking
peaks--the Isle of Lemnos.
MAROONED ON LEMNOS ISLAND
Within the outer anchorage
The ancient Argonauts lay to;
Little they dreamt--that dauntless crew--
That here to-day in the sheltered bay
Where the seas are still and blue,
Great battle-ships should froth and
hum, And mighty transport-vessels come
Serenely floating through.
With magic sail the Argonauts
Stood by to go about;
Little they thought--that hero band--
As they made once more for an unknown land
In a world of terror and doubt,
That here in the wake of the magical bough
Should come the all-terrible ironclad now
Serenely floating out.
Written on Mudros Beach: Oct. 7, 1915.
July the twenty-seventh.
The deadly silence . . .
The tenderfoot on an expedition of this sort naturally expects to find
himself plunged into a whirl of noise and tumult.
The crags were colourless and shimmering in the heat. The harbour was
calm and greeny- blue. One by one, with our haversacks and water-
bottles, belts and rolled overcoats, we went down the companion-way
into the waiting surf-boats. Again and again these boats, roped
together and tugged by a little launch, went back and forth from the
S.S. Canada to the "Turk's Head Pier"-a tiny wooden jetty built by
I asked one of the straw-hatted men of the Naval Division, who was
casting off the painter, what the place was like--
"Sand an' flies, and flies an' sand--nothinkelse!" he replied.
No sooner ashore than the green and black flies came pestering and
tormenting like a host of wicked jinn. The glare of sunlight on the
yellow sand hurt the eyes. The deadly silence of the place was
oppressive--especially when you had strung yourself up to concert
pitch to face the crash and turmoil of a fearful battle.
The quiet isolation and khaki desolation of jagged peaks and sandy
slopes was nerve-breaking.
You could see the thin lines of the wireless station and little groups
of white bell-tents dotted here and there.
Robinson Crusoe wasn't in it. Sand and flies and sun; sun and flies
"Wot 'ave we struck 'ere, Bill?"
"Some d---d desert island, I reckon!"
"A blasted heath . . ."
"Gordlummy, look at the d---d flies!"
"Curse the ---- sun; sweat's trickling down me back."
"And curse all the d---d issue . . ."
"What the holy son of Moses did we join for?"
We growled and groaned and cursed our luck. The sweat ran down under
our pith helmets and soaked in a stream from under our armpits. We
trudged to our camping-place along the shore. One or two Greek natives
followed us about with melons to sell. Parched and choked with sand,
we were only too glad to buy these water-melons for two or three
The rind was green like a vegetable marrow, but the inside was yellow
with pink and crimson pips--the colour of a Mediterranean sunset.
One day ashore on this accursed island and the diarrhoea set in. I
never saw men suffer such awful stomach-pains before. The continual
eating of melons to allay the blistering thirst helped the disease.
Many men slept close to the latrines, too weak to crawl to and fro all
night long. The sun blazed, and the flies in thousands of millions
swarmed and irritated from early morning till sundown.
At night it was cold. The stars burned white-hot--a calm, fierce
Hawk and I "kipped down" (slept) together on a sandy stretch
overlooking the bay. We could see the green-and-red electric lights of
the hospital ships waiting in the harbour--for us, perhaps . . .
The "graft" (work) was fearful. All day long we were at it: hauling up
our equipment from the beach where it had been dumped ashore. Medical
panniers, operating marquee, tents and tent-poles, cook-house dixies,
picks and shovels, bully and biscuit boxes and a hundred-and-one
articles necessary to the work of the Medical Corps in the field: all
this had to be man-handled through the sand up to our camp about a
mile away. And the sun blazed, and the flies pestered and stung and
buzzed and fought with each other for the drops of sweat streaming
down your face. How long should we be here? When were we going into
action? . . . The suspense was brain-racking. The diarrhoea increased:
everyone went down with it. Some got the ague shivers and some a touch
We became gloomy and bodily sick. We wanted to get into it--into
action . . .
Anything would be better than this God-forsaken island. Why the
dickens did they leave us moping here: working in the blazing heat,
and crawling to the latrines in the chilly nights? For goodness' sake,
let's get out of it! Let's get to work! . . . So the days dragged on.
The natives wore baggy trousers and coloured head-bands. They sat all
day near our camp selling melons, tomatoes, very cheap and tasteless
chocolates, raisins, figs and dates.
We used to go down to swim in the little bay-like semicircle of the
harbour. The water was always warm and very salt. Here were tiny
shoals of tiny fish. The water was clear and glassy. There were pinky
sea-urchins with spikey spines which jabbed your feet. The sandy bed
of the bay was all ribbed with ripples.
The island was humming and ticking like a watch with insect-noises:
otherwise the deadly silence held. There were red-winged grasshoppers
and great green-gray locust-looking crickets which whistled and
"cricked" all night.
We had to fetch our water from the water-tank boats, about a mile and
a half distant, and haul it up in a water-cart.
Gangs of natives were working under the military authorities. There
were Greeks and Greek-Armenians, Turks and Ethiopians, Egyptians and
half-breeds of all kinds from Malta and Gib. They were employed in
making roads and clearing the ground for huts and camps.
And all the time we had no letters from home. We were actually
marooned on Lemnos Island: as literally marooned on a barren desert
isle as any buccaneer of the old Spanish galleon days. We went
suddenly back to a savage life. We went down to bathe stark naked,
with the sunset glowing orange on our sunburnt limbs. Here it was that
Hawk proved himself a wonderfully good swimmer. He was lithe and
supple and well-made--an extraordinary specimen of virile manhood--and
he spent his fiftieth birthday on Lemnos!
One day came the order to pack up and man-handle all our stuff down to
the beach ready for re-embarkation. At last we were on the move. We
worked with a will now. The great day would soon dawn. Some of us
would get "put out of mess," no doubt, but this waiting about to get
killed was much worse than plunging into the thick of it.
August the 6th saw us steaming out at night towards the great unknown
climax--the New Landing.
THE NEW LANDING
A pale pink sunrise burst across the eastern sky as our transport came
steaming into the bay. The haze of early morning dusk still held,
blurring the mainland and water in misty outlines.
Hawk and I had slept upon the deck. Now we got up and stretched our
cramped limbs. Slowly we warped through the quiet seas.
You must understand that we knew not where we were. We had never heard
of Suvla Bay--we didn't know what part of the Peninsula we had
reached. The mystery of the adventure made it all the more exciting.
It was to be "a new landing by the Xth Division"--that was all we
Some of us had slept, and some had lain awake all night. Rapidly the
pink sunrise swept behind the rugged mountains to the left, and was
reflected in wobbling ripples in the bay.
We joined the host of battleships, monitors, and troopships standing
out, and "stood by."
We could hear the rattle of machine-guns in the distant gloom beyond
the streak of sandy shore. The decks were crowded with that same khaki
crowd. We all stood eagerly watching and listening. The death-silence
had come upon us. No one spoke. No one whistled.
We could see the lighters and small boats towing troops ashore. We saw
the men scramble out, only to be blown to pieces by land mines as they
waded to the beach. On the Lala Baba side we watched platoons and
companies form up and march along in fours, all in step, as if they
were on parade.
"In fours!" I exclaimed to Hawk, who was peering through my
"Sheer murder," said Hawk.
No sooner had he spoken than a high explosive from the Turkish
positions on the Sari Bair range came screaming over the Salt Lake:
They lay there like a little group of dead beetles, and the wounded
were crawling away like ants into the dead yellow grass and the sage
bushes to die. A whole platoon was smashed.
It was not yet daylight. We could see the flicker of rifle-fire, and
the crackle sounded first on one part of the bay, and then another.
Among the dark rocks and bushes it looked as if people were striking
thousands of matches.
Mechanical Death went steadily on. Four Turkish batteries on the
Kislar Dargh were blown up one after the other by our battleships. We
watched the thick rolling smoke of the explosions, and saw bits of
wheels, and the arms and legs of gunners blown up in little black
fragments against that pearl-pink sunrise.
The noise of Mechanical Battle went surging from one side of the bay
to the other--it swept round suddenly with an angry rattle of maxims
and the hard echoing crackle of rifle-fire.
Now and then our battle-ships crashed forth, and their shells went
hurtling and screaming over the mountains to burst with a muffled roar
somewhere out of sight.
Mechanical Death moved back and forth. It whistled and screamed and
crashed. It spat fire, and unfolded puffs of grey and white and black
smoke. It flashed tongues of livid flame, like some devilish ant-eater
lapping up its insects . . . and the insects were the sons of men.
Mechanical Death, as we saw him at work, was hard and metallic, steel-
studded and shrapnel-toothed. Now and then he bristled with bayonets,
and they glittered here and there in tiny groups, and charged up the
rocks and through the bushes.
The noise increased. Mechanical Death worked first on our side, and
then with the Turks. He led forward a squad, and the next instant
mowed them down with a hail of lead. He galloped up a battery,
unlimbered--and before the first shell could be rammed home Mechanical
Death blew the whole lot up with a high explosive from a Turkish
battery in the hills.
And so it went on hour after hour. Crackle, rattle and roar; scream,
whistle and crash. We stood there on the deck watching men get killed.
Now and then a shell came wailing and moaning across the bay, and
dropped into the water with a great column of spray glittering in the
early morning sunshine. A German Taube buzzed overhead; the hum-hum-
hum of the engine was very loud. She dropped several bombs, but none
of them did much damage. The little yellow-skinned observation balloon
floated above one of our battleships like a penny toy. The Turks had
several shots at it, but missed it every time.
The incessant noise of battle grew more distant as our troops on shore
advanced. It broke out like a bush-fire, and spread from one section
to another. Mechanical Death pressed forward across the Salt Lake. It
stormed the heights of the Kapanja Sirt on the one side, and took Lala
Baba on the other. Puffs of smoke hung on the hills, and the shore was
all wreathed in the smoke of rifle and machine-gun fire. A deadly
conflict this--for one Turk on the hills was worth ten British down
below on the Salt Lake.
There was no glory. Here was Death, sure enough--Mechanical Death run
amok--but where was the glory?
Here was organised murder--but it was steel-cold! There was no hand-
to-hand glory. A mine dispersed you before you had set foot on dry
land; or a high explosive removed your stomach, and left you a mangled
heap of human flesh, instead of a medically certified, healthy human
Mechanical Death wavered and fluctuated--but it kept going. If it
slackened its murderous fire at one side of the bay, it was only to
burst forth afresh upon the other.
We wondered how it was that we were still alive, when so many lay
dead. Some were killed on the decks of the transports by shrapnel.
Our monitors crept close to the sandy shore, and poured out a deadly
brood of Death.
The crack and crash was deafening, and it literally shook the
air . . . it quivered like a jelly after each shot.
The fighting got more and more inland, and the rattle and crackle
fainter and farther away. But we still watched, fascinated.
The little groups of men lay in exactly the same positions on the
beach. That platoon by the side of Lala Baba lay in a black bunch--
stone dead. We could see our artillery teams galloping along like a
team of performing fleas, taking up new positions behind Lala Baba. So
this is war? Well, it's pretty awful! Wholesale murder . . . what's it
all for? Wonder how long we shall last alive before Mechanical Death
blows our brains out, or a leg off . . .
Queer thing, war! Didn't think it was quite like this! So mechanical
And now came the time for us to land. A lighter came alongside, with a
little red-bearded man in command--
"Remind you of any one?" I said to Hawk.
He was exactly like Cutcliffe Hyne's famous "Kettle," except that he
smoked a pipe. We huddled into the lighter, and hauled our stores down
below. Some of us were "green about the gills," and some were trying
to pretend we didn't care.
We watched the boat which landed just before us strike a mine and be
blown to pieces. Encouraging sight . . . At last we reached the tiny
cove, and the lighter let down a sort of tail-board on the sand.
THE KAPANJA SIRT
One had his stomach blown out, and the other his chest blown in. The
two bodies lay upon the sand as we stepped down.
The metallic rattle of the firing-line sounded far away. We man-
handled all our medical equipment and stores from the hold of the
lighter to the beach.
We had orders to "fall in" the stretcher-bearers, and work in open
formation to the firing-line.
The Kapanja Sirt runs right along one side of Suvla Bay. It is one
wing of that horse-shoe formation of rugged mountains which hems in
the Anafarta Ova and the Salt Lake.
Our searching zone for wounded lay along this ridge, which rises like
the vertebrae of some great antediluvian reptile--dropping sheer down
on the Gulf of Saros side, and, in varying slopes, to the plains and
the Salt Lake on the other.
Here again small things left a vivid impression--the crack of a rifle
from the top of the ridge, and a party of British climbing up the
rocks and scrub in search of the hidden Turk.
The smell of human blood soaking its way into the sand from those two
"stiffies" on the beach. The sullen silence, except for the distant
crackle and the occasional moan of a shell. The rain which came
pelting down in great cold blobs, splashing and soaking our thin drill
clothes till we were wet to the skin and shivering with cold.
We were all thinking: "Who will be the first to get plugged?" We moved
slowly along the ridge, searching every bush and rock for signs of
We wondered what the first case would be--and which squad would come
I worked up and down the line of squads trying to keep them in touch
with each other. We were carrying stretchers, haversacks, iron
rations, medical haversacks, medical water-bottles, our own private
water-bottles (filled on Lemnos Island), and three "monkey-boxes" or
field medical companions.
Those we had left on the beach were busy putting up the operating
marquee and other tents, and the cooks in getting a fire going and
The stretcher-squads worked slowly forward. We passed an old Turkish
well with a stone-flagged front and a stone trough. Later on we came
upon the trenches and bivouacs of a Turkish sniping headquarters.
There were all kinds of articles lying about which had evidently
belonged to Turkish officers: tobacco in a heap on the ground near a
bent willow and thorn bivouac; part of a field telephone with the
wires running towards the upper ridges of Sirt; the remains of some
dried fish and an earthenware jar or "chattie" which had held some
kind of wine; a few very hard biscuits, and a mass of brand-new
clothing, striped shirts and white shirts, grey military overcoats,
yellow leather shoes with pointed toes, a red fez, a great padded
body-belt with tapes to tie it, a pair of boots, and some richly
coloured handkerchiefs and waistbands all striped and worked and
It was near here that our first man was killed later in the day. He
was looking into one of these bivouacs, and was about to crawl out
when a bullet went through his brain. It was a sniper's shot. We
buried him in an old Turkish trench close by, and put a cross made of
a wooden bully-beef crate over him.
The sun now blazed upon us, and our rain-soaked clothes were steaming
in the heat. The open fan-like formation in which we moved was not a
success. We lost the officers, and continually got out of touch with
At last we reached the zone of spent bullets. "Z-z-z-z-e-e-e-e-e-pp!--
"That one was jist by me left ear!" said Sergeant Joe Smith, although
as a matter of fact it was yards above his head. Here, among a hail of
moaning spent shots, our officers called a halt, made us fall in, in
close formation, and we retired--what for I do not know.
We went back as far as the old Turkish well. Here Hawk had something
"Our place is advancing," said he, "not retiring because of a few
spent bullets. There's men there dying for want of medical attention--
bleeding to death."
The next time we went forward that day was in Indian file, each
stretcher-squad following the one in front.
A parson came with us. I marched just behind the adjutant, and the
parson walked with me. He was a big man and a fair age. We went past
the well and the bivouacs. I could see he was very nervous.
"Do you think we are out of danger here?" he asked.
"I think so, sir" (we were three miles from the firing-line). A few
paces further on--
"I wonder how far the firing-line is?"
"Couldn't say, sir."
A yard or so, and then--
"D'you suppose the British are advancing?"
"I hope so." And after a minute or two--
"I wonder if there are any Turks near here . . .?"
I made no answer, and marvelled greatly that the "man of God" should
not be better prepared to meet "his Maker," of Whom in civil life he
had talked so much.
It was just then that I spotted it--a little black figure, motionless,
away beyond the bushes on the right.
He lay flat under a huge rock. I left the stretcher-squads, and,
crawling behind a bush, looked through the glasses. It certainly was a
Turk, and his position was one of hiding. He kept perfectly motionless
on his stomach and his rifle lay by his side.
I sent a message to pass the word up to the leading squads for Hawk.
Quickly he came down to me and took the glasses. He had wonderful
sight. After looking for a few seconds he agreed that it looked like a
Turkish sniper lying in wait.
"Let's go and see, anyway," said I.
Hawk led the way down into the thorn-bushes and dried-up plants. I
followed close at his heels. We crouched as we went and kept well
under cover. Hawk took a semicircular route, which I could see would
ultimately bring us out by the side of the rock under which the sniper
Now we caught a glimpse of the little dark figure--then we plunged
deeper into the rank willow-growth and bore round to the right.
Hawk unslung the great jack-knife which hung round his waist and
silently opened the gleaming blade. I did the same.
"I'll surprise him; you can leave it to me to get in a good slash,"
said Hawk, and I saw the great muscles of his miner's arms tighten.
"But if he gets one in on me," he whispered, "be ready with your knife
at the back of his neck."
A few steps farther brought us suddenly upon the rock and the sniper.
Hawk was immediately in front of me, and his arm was held back ready
for a mighty blow. He stood perfectly still looking at the rock, and I
watched his muscles relax.
"See it?" he said.
There was the Turk--a great heat-swollen figure stinking in the
sunshine. As I moved forward a swarm of green and black flies, which
had been feeding on his face and crawling up his nostrils, went up in
a humming, buzzing cloud.
A bit of wood lying near had looked like his rifle from a distance;
and now we saw that, instead of lying on his stomach, he was lying on
his back, and looked as if he had been killed by shrapnel.
"Putrid stink," said I; "come on--let's clear out."
And so our sniper-hunt led to nothing but a dead Turk stewing in the
glaring sunshine. We rejoined the squads. No one had missed us. This
first day was destined to be one of many adventures.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE WHITE PACK-MULE
That night was dark, with no stars. I didn't know what part of
Gallipoli we were in, and the maps issued were useless.
The first cases had been picked up close to the firing-line, and were
mostly gun-shot wounds, and now--late in the evening--all my squads
having worked four miles to the beach, I was trying to get my own
direction back to the ambulance.
The Turks seldom fired at night, so that it was only the occasional
shot of a British rifle, or the sudden "pop-pop-pop-pop-pop!" of a
machine-gun which told me the direction of the firing-line.
I trudged on and on in the dark, stumbling over rocks and slithering
down steep crags, tearing my way through thorns and brambles, and
sometimes rustling among high dry grass.
Queer scents, pepperminty and sage-like smells, came in whiffs. It was
cold. I must have gone several miles along the Kapanja Sirt when I
came to a halt and once more tried to get my bearings. I peered at the
gloomy sky, but there was no star. I listened for the lap-lap of water
on the beach of Suvla Bay, but I must have been too far up the ridges
to hear anything. There was dead silence. When I moved a little green
lizard scutted over a white rock and vanished among the dead scrub.
I was past feeling hungry, although I had eaten one army biscuit in
the early morning and had had nothing since.
It was extraordinarily lonely. You may imagine how queer it was, for
here was I, trying to get back to my ambulance headquarters at night
on the first day of landing--and I was hopelessly lost. It was
impossible to tell where the firing-line began. I reckoned I was
outside the British outposts and not far from the Turkish lines. Once,
as I went blundering along over some rocks, a dark figure bolted out
of a bush and ran away up the ridge in a panic.
"Halt!" I shouted, trying to make believe I was a British armed
sentry. But the figure ran on, and I began to stride after it. This
led me up and up the ridge over very broken ground. Whoever it was (it
was probably a Turkish sniper, for there were many out night-scouting)
I lost sight and sound of him.
I went climbing steadily up till at last I found myself looking into
darkness. I got down on my hands and knees and peered over the edge of
a ridge of rock. I could see a tiny beam of light away down, and this
beam grew and grew as it slowly moved up and up till it became a great
triangular ray. It swept slowly along the top of what I now saw was a
steep precipice sloping sheer down into blackness below. One step
further and I should have gone hurtling into the sea. For, although I
did not then know it, this was the topmost ridge of the Kapanja Sirt.
The great searchlight came nearer and nearer, and I slid backwards and
lay on my stomach looking over. The nearer it came the lower I moved,
so as to get well off the skyline when the beam reached me. It may
have been a Turkish searchlight. It swept slowly, slowly, till at last
it was turned off and everything was deadly black.
I started off again in another direction, keeping my back to the
ridge, as I reckoned that to be a Turkish searchlight, and, therefore,
our own lines would be somewhere down the ridge. Here, high up, I
could just see a grey streak, which I took to be the bay.
I tried to make for this streak. I scrambled down a very steep stratum
of the mountain-side and landed at last in a little patch of dead
grass and tall dried-up thistles.
By this time, having come down from my high position on the Sirt, I
could no longer see the bay; but I judged the direction as best I
could, and without waiting I tramped on.
I began to wonder how long I had been trudging about, and I put it at
about two hours.
"Halt!--who are you?" called a voice down below.
"Friend! stretcher-bearer!" I shouted.
"Come here--this way!" answered the voice.
I went down to a clump of bushes, and a man with a rifle slung over
his shoulder stepped forward, and we both glared at each other for a
"Do yer know where the 45th Company is?"
"No idea," said I.
"Not a drop left."
"We're trying to get back to the firing-line but we're all lost--
there's eight of us."
"I'm trying to get to the 32nd Field Ambulance--d'you know the way?"
"Yes; go right ahead there," he pointed, "and keep well down off the
hills--you'll see the beach when you've gone for a mile or so--"
"How far is it?"
"'Bout four miles;" and then, "Got a match?"
"Yes--but it's dangerous to light up."
"Must 'ave a smoke--nothink to eat or drink."
"Well, here you are; light up inside my helmet."
He did; this hid the lighted match from any sniper's eye. The other
seven men came crawling out of the bushes to light up their
"woodbines" and fag-ends.
"Well, I'm off," said I, and once more went forward in the direction
pointed out by the corporal and his lost squad.
"So long, mate--good luck!" he shouted.
"Same to you!" I called back.
And now came sleep upon me. Even as I walked an awful weariness fell
upon every limb. My legs became heavy and slow. That short rest had
stiffened me, and my eyelids closed as I trudged on. I lifted them
with an effort and dragged one foot after the other. I knew I must get
back to my unit, and that here it was very dangerous. I wanted to lie
down on the dead grass and sleep and sleep and sleep. I urged my
muscles to swing my legs--for I knew if once I sat down to rest I
should never keep awake.
It was while I was thus trying to jerk my sleepy nerves on to action
that I came upon a zigzagged trench. It was fully six feet deep and
about a yard wide. It was of course an old Turkish defence running
crosswise along the great backbone of the Sirt. I knew now that I was
nearing the bay, for most of these trenches overlooked the beach.
There was a white object about ten yards from me. What it was I could
not tell, and a quiver of fear ran through me and threw off the awful
sleepiness of fatigue.
Was it a Turkish sniper's shirt? Or was it a piece of white cloth, or
a sheet of paper? In the gloom of night I could not discover.
However, I determined to go steady, and I crept up to a dark thorn-
bush and stood still.It did not move. Still standing against the dark
bush to hide the fact that I was unarmed, I shouted--
"Halt! who are you?" in as gruff and threatening a tone as I could
Silence. It did not move. I ran forward along the trench and there
found a white pack-mule all loaded up with baggage; I could make out
the queerly worked trappings, with brass-coins on the fringed bridle
and coloured fly-tassels over the eyes. It was stone dead and stiff.
Its eyes glared at me--a glassy glare full of fear. The Turkish pack-
mule had been bringing up material to the Turks in the trench when it
had been killed--and now the deep sides of the trench were holding it
I trudged away towards the beach and lay down to sleep at last among
the other men of the ambulance, who were lying scattered about behind
tufts of bush or against ledges of rock.
When weighed down with sleep any bed will serve.
And this was the end of our first day's work on the field.
THE SNIPER OF THE PEAR-TREE GULLY
We used to start long before daylight, when the heavy gloom of early
morning swept mountain, sea and sand in an indistinct haze; when the
cobwebs hung thick from thorn to thorn like fairy cats'-cradles all
dripping and beaded with those heavy dews. The guard would wake us up
about 3.30 A.M. We were asleep anywhere, lying about under rocks and
in sandy dells, sleeping on our haversacks and water-bottles, and our
pith helmets near by. We got an issue of biscuit and jam, or biscuit
and bully-beef, to take with us, and each one carried his iron rations
in a little bag at his side.
So we set off--a long, straggling, follow-my-leader line of men and
stretchers. The officer first, then the stretcher-sergeant--(myself)--
and the squads, two men to a stretcher, carrying the stretchers folded
up, and last of all a corporal or a "lance-jack" bringing up the rear
in case any one should fall out.
Cold, dark, shivery mornings they were; our clothes soaked in dew and
our pith helmets reeking wet, with the puggaree all beaded with dew-
drops. We toiled up and up the ridges and gullies of the Kislar Dargh
and the Kapanja Sirt slowly, like a little column of ants going out to
bring in the ant eggs.
Often we had to wait while the Indian transport came down from the
hill-track before we could proceed, and we always came upon the
Engineers' field-telegraph wires on the ground. I would shout "Wire!"
over my shoulder, and the shout "Wire! . . . Wire! . . . Wire!" went
down the line from squad to squad.
From the old Turkish well I led my stretcher-squads past the gun of
the Field Artillery (mounted quite near our hospital tents) along a
track which ran past a patch of dry yellow grass and dead thistles--
here among the prickly plants and sage-bushes grew a white flower--
pure and sweet-scented--something like a flag--a "holy flower" among
the dead and scorched-up yellow ochre blades and the khaki and dull
grey-greens of thorns. We went along this track, past the dead sniper
which Hawk and I had so carefully stalked. Near by, hidden by bushes
and rank willow thickets lay a dozen more dead Turks, swollen, fly-
blown and stinking in the broiling sun. We hurried on past the Turkish
bivouacs--many of the relics had been picked up by the British Tommies
since last I saw the place: the tobacco had all gone--many of the
shirts and overcoats which had been lying about had disappeared--the
place had been thoroughly ransacked. We trudged past the wooden cross
of our dead comrade and we were silent.
Indeed, throughout those first three days--Saturday, Sunday and
Monday--when the British and Turks grappled to and fro and flung
shrapnel at each other incessantly; when the fighting line swayed and
bent, sometimes pushing back the Turks, sometimes bending in the
British; when the fate of the whole undertaking still hung in the
balance; when what became a semi-failure might have been a staggering
success: in those days the death-silence fell upon us all.
No one whistled those rag-time tunes; no one tried to make jokes,
except the very timid, and they giggled nervously at their own.
No one spoke unless it was quite necessary. Each man you passed asked
you the vital question: "Any water?"
For a moment as he asks his eyes glitter witha gleam of hope--when you
shake your head he simply trudges on over the rocks and scrub with the
same fatigued and sullen dullness which we all suffered.
Often you asked the same question yourself with parched and burning
One after another we came upon the wounded. Here a man dragging a
broken leg along with him. Here a man holding his fractured fore-arm
and running towards us. Sometimes the pitiful cry, faint and full of
agony: "Stretchers! Stretcher-bearers!" away in some densely overgrown
defile swept with bullets and shrapnel.
And so at last all my squads had turned back with stretchers loaded
with men and pieces of men. I went on alone--a lonely figure wandering
about the mountains, looking and listening for the wounded.
I came now upon a party of Engineers at work making a road. They were
working with pick-axe and spade--clearing away bush and rocks.