Part 1 - Capt. B.E. Bardwell Diary Transcription - April 1915
Mudros & the Gallipoli Landing
Sunday 11th The harbour is again becoming full of transports this being at the present time some 25 troopships inside, besides outside + in another harbour. Had an easy day as B.G. Cpl attending sick parade + also distribution of meals.
During the afternoon we had a perfect view of a sea-plane which was hovering over the harbour for some time. Twice it passed some hundreds of feet directly over us. It is wonderful the perfection they have reached, its equilibrium was perfect not the slightest wobbling or swaying noticeable. It reminded one of a huge wasp, what with the buzzing of its engine + its long narrow build. I suppose we will soon be quite used to the sight of them, but of course the first time causes great interest. We also saw it alight + skim along the surface of the harbour. There is also a small dirigible aboard one of the ships here.
Great amusement was caused today when one of the boats came back from the shore with some of our men aboard among whom were two who had got hold of some Koniak + got rather drunk.
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While coming alongside one of them first threw his hat overboard + then picked up his rifle + before anyone could stop him threw it after the hat, of course it was lost. Of course they could not come up the rope ladders, so when the Colonel heard about it he ordered them to be securely bound and hauled up by the winch. As horses were being loaded at the time a horse sling was made use of. The first man, the worst of the two, was swung up into the air where he looked quite happy + caused a lot of amusement among the onlookers, then was lowered onto the deck + taken charge of to await his trial.
The boat seems very crowded now with all the extra troops + their equipment aboard. It also means that the decks can’t be kept nearly so clean as before.
Monday 12th The Commanding Officers of all Battalions went aboard the Queen Elizabeth this morning + were taken away to the vicinity of the Dardanelles, I conclude for the purpose of selecting or having pointed out to them the spot where we are to land + of course to have an inspection of the country in that vicinity + to discuss movements, so it looks as if we are nearly at the end of our long wait.
We went ashore this morning + went through the usual advance + attack. We were the first ashore + while awaiting the arrival of the rest of the Coys., Corporal Laster, our own platoon, who had been ashore a week or so ago on one of those.
spy guards, from descriptions of a wanted spy thought he recognised the description in a well dressed man accompanied by two others + an old Greek priest, who walked along our lines + then went down to the beach + had a good look around. Laster reported his surmises to Major Roberts Major Roberts who at once signalled to the Malda (flagship of Brigade) + found description tallied + was ordered to arrest same. In the meantime the group of men had left the beach + gone inland among the crops towards a small village. Lieut. Walker, Cpl Laster + six men were sent off to assist them. They found them in a drinking house where they also went in + had a drink. After some time one of them went over to a private house but soon returned. They were then arrested + were taken to the Naval Quarters at Mudros where they were handed over + searched. Nothing being found of an incriminating nature on them they were released but are being placed under close surveillance.
Last night it was discovered that morse signals were being sent from one of the villages but by the time an inspection party arrived there everything was quiet.
I forgot to mention that I received pair of gloves + tobacco also a letter from mother + one Miss Smithwick.
Tuesday 13th Nothing of interest happened today, some of the reinforcements went ashore but owing to the rain had to come back again. We now have our new Platoon Officer, Lieutenant Gostelow, very
ordinary looking man but I think he will be quite capable of looking after us.
Wednesday 14th The Colonel again was away all day returning at sundown, when they were all aboard the Queen Elizabeth near the Dardenelles on Monday they had several shots fired at them but they all fell short.
Thousands of troops went ashore during the day, more to practise landing than anything else. They were towed ashore by pinnaces, each pinnace taking from 6 to 12 boats full of men. It is a decidedly quicker method than rowing.
We were issued with our Battalion colours this afternoon, brown and blue, which we wear on either shoulder, brown upwards. I believe before going into the field we take off our numerals and badges + are just recognised by our colours.
After lunch all black kit bags were taken aft + stacked, they are all going to be shipped back to Alexandria where they will be stored. This means that now we will only have the clothes we stand up in + what we can carry in our packs to last us until God know when.
Peter Snodgrass is just the same as ever, if there ever was an untidy man Peter is he. I have never seen him look really smart in civilian clothes + he is just the same in uniform + looks as if a razor was only known to him about once a week.
Thursday 15 I have just received the
sad news of the death of one of our Platoon, McGuiness, a fine big fellow about 6ft 2inches + proportionately built, he was one of our scouts under Puckle. He contracted pneumonia some time ago taking him ashore on a cold windy day to the hospital nearly finished him, he could not sleep for night after night. Well about 5 days ago he was on the mend when I believe he was taken aboard the hospital ship to be taken back to Alexandria, most likely the trip from shore to ship had fatal effects, anyhow he is gone + we have lost one of our very best men.
A man seems to have a very poor chance unless he can get into a permanent hospital from the jump. There always seems to be too much shifting about to do good.
Friday 16th This evening “A +C” Coys. were taken aboard the H.M.S. London. They were practising disembarkation from our ship onto the London + were taken in tow by one of the latter’s pinnaces.
While on board they heard that 20,000 Turks had suffered heavy defeat on Canak. The idea is that we go to the Gallipoli Peninsula in ships of war + from there disembark.
Saturday 17th A few days ago I got another of my rotten colds + since then my voice has become very husky, not being able to drill my section. If it does not come back before we finally land it will be a case of my handing section over to somebody with a good voice
Had good swim over side of boat this afternoon, but it was rather on the cold side to stay in too long.
The Ionian at last left our side this afternoon. It was about time as between the two ships a great deal of rubbish + filth had collected + the odours that sometimes arose from this were not too pleasant.
The harbour is now very full + we hear there are any amount of others outside. It is also said that we are going to be here a week or so yet. One has to develop a great deal of patience these days on account of our long waits. Some of the fellows wonder why we dont rush right into things. They don’t seem to realize that we have been waiting for a concentration of very large forces here + that the heads have to await favourable times to begin operations. If we only knew some of the inner workings of this vast army, so ????? applied by being on the sea, they would not growl but would be quite and content to wait quietly for the time of disembarkation. Once they are into it I reckon there will be a very large percentage who would rather be back on board ship again.
Sunday 18th Quiet day for us. In the afternoon A + C Coys. went ashore practising disembarkation + taking up a position + from there they boarded the H.M.S. London. The idea is now that 2 Coys from each Battalion of 3rd B’gde will form the landing party for the
Aust. + N.Z. Army Corps followed by the rest. As C Coys. have been picked from our Batn., so our D Coy. will miss pride of place in being first ashore, any how we will be 2nd + will have representatives in first lot in several scouts, Puckle being one. I am afraid it is going to be a very hard job + most likely they will get badly knocked about.
It is said that all along our prospective landing place it is one mass of barbed wire entanglements + ten to one mines. So one can realize how the first to land will most likely suffer.
Monday 19th On prisoners guard today. Everything is excitement now + everyone seem eager to get to work. they are all very confident + I think it will be a bad time for those who get in our way. We have waited 8 months for this + now it is nearly on hand at last.
We have several blue jackets aboard from Lord Nelson, 2 from Elizabeth + others who are going to help at unloading looking after life boats etc.
Old G + H Coys, 12th Batn. (Tasmania) these boys being W.A. came aboard here today to camp. They were in full marching order + very heavily loaded up. A + C Coys are away again tonight practicing disembarkation + advance.
Tuesday 20th Went ashore today + took
part in a rather severe but short route march over the hills down onto the beach on the other side where we had lunch.
Everywhere one can now notice the arrival of spring. One crop we passed over was simply beautiful, although only a foot high it was a beautiful shade of green + all through it bright red poppies thrust their heads above the carpet of green. It was a sight one most often sees in oil paintings than realistically. Other fields were masses of different coloured pea flowers, runners, Scotch thistles, etc. And then we came across a regular Garden of Eden in shape of a small orchard with high stone wall surrounding it. The trees were all so green + close together that they formed a complete + cool shade beneath.
When we arrived back at the beach the wind had come up very strong which prevented crews from bringing boats ashore. After 5 hours wait they arrived + to save time we were then transhipped to a mine sweeper which had several shot holes through her, + from this taken aboard ship arriving at 9pm.
Wednesday 21st Rainy day. Two companies in full marching order went aboard a torpedo boat destroyer to see what number of men could be got aboard.
Thursday 22nd Went through same performance as yesterday, this time pulling 12/68 away from ship + after going short distance anchored + from these took to the boats. Eight months ago I never expected to be either on a mine sweeper or a T.B D.
This afternoon were issued with 200 rounds ammunition + 3 days rations.
Friday 23rd The hundred + one final preparations + provisions to this big undertaking were entered into today. Men were constantly packing + unpacking their packs + stowing their rations away. It is an enormous load we have to carry but of course will throw our packs off as soon as we land.
Saturday 24th The first half of B’gde got away aboard cruisers about noon + the rest of us left Lemnos aboard transports during afternoon.
Outside harbour was one mass of ships + in the distance could be seen line of battle ships steaming out + also flotilla of T.B.D.s We anchored at Embros Island + there transhipped into T.B.D.s about midnight.
Sunday 25th We got close to shore near daybreak + soon after heard Turks open fire on first half of Brigade as they were landing + then we heard our men cheering as they charged up hill + took a trench. We landed immediately after in life boats amid a perfect hail of lead, a great many of our men being hit in boats + on shore. As soon as we 13/68 got ashore we flung off our packs + lay down on the beach. There seemed to be a hopeless mixture of Coys + Battalion’s boats from different ships landing at same place. Several boats landed further round to the left upon which machine guns played cutting up the men dreadfully. In the meantime the ½ B’gde had driven the enemy immediately in front well back over the hills, + what hills! rising very steeply up from the shore to a height of some 300 feet.
After lying under heavy fire on beach for a while we worked in dribs +drabs in any order round into shelter of one of the hills. I thought it was time to move after a bullet landed just under my chin. Soon we began scaling the hills , dragging boxes of ammunition shovels etc. up. The crowd I found myself with a mixture of our Batn. + 12th moved out to the left flank where we received rather a bad time. It is all very thick scrub country which enables a great deal of sniping on enemy’s part. We took up position but there seemed to be a dearth of officers + after holding it for some time someone gave order to retire. We retired short distance fixed bayonets + moved forward again. But enemy in meantime had advanced + again gave us a bad time. By this time enemies shrapnel began to burst + as we had no guns to answer them it is wonderful with what tenacity the men held on. Casualties were very heavy. All the time fresh troops were pouring ashore.
Some New Zealanders came round our flank to reinforce about midday
Could hardly drag one leg after another after so much heavy hill climbing + mad rushing about through the thick scrub so fell out of line for a spell. Then helped wounded man down to beach where small jetty had been erected by Engineers.
Beach was hopeless mass of wounded awaiting to go aboard Hospital ships, fatigues unloading barges of water, food, cannon, munitions + thousand + one things necessary for such an undertaking; mules for mountain batteries, a few of which had been got into action by Indians + also for carting ammunition, food, water etc.
Then all spare men were detached for unloading ammunition off barges so I had to join in, one case of which I afterwards helped to carry up to firing line, it was an awful job as I could hardly drag one leg after the other.
The war ships put in excellent work in lending their support with their cannon.
During that morning a bullet ricocheted off bolt of rifle sending couple of small splinters into face + went through neighbours hand.
Mon 26th + Tues 27th Back in firing line Monday morning + was generally on left centre + left flank. Firing very severe enemies shrapnel bursting everywhere especially on main route to beach, a deep gully where lots of damage was done. Left flank worst position of lot + as a permanent position had not been taken up in some
parts, am afraid some of our own men were hit by our ships guns. Snipers of whom many are inside our lines hidden in bushes are doing a lot of damage.
Our own guns are now ashore + some of them got into position are paying Turks back in their own coin.
Wednesday 28th Got word 3rd B’gde reorganising on beach, boiled my first dixy of tea, alongside a dead fellow this morning, since Saturday night. Then went onto beach where I joined what were there of Batn.