Part 2 - Capt. B.E. Bardwell Diary Transcription - May 1915
Sunday 2nd Thursday and Friday camped on steep slopes running down to shore where everyone had to burrow in to shelter from bursting shell. Men kept dribbling in but our casualties are very heavy for B’gde. Heard on Friday there were 176 killed 900 odd wounded + 700 odd missing of whom many will yet turn up + remainder may be put down as dead or prisoners.
Our Coy have only two officers left. Major Denton, Captain Croly. Lieutenant Walker wounded. Lieutenant Reed (sic Reid) missing, of Batn. Captain Annear + Barnes dead + Lieut. Cook (sic Cooke) dead. Sergeants Allen and Thompson + Pte. Whittle all of Geraldton are dead + several others are wounded.
Denton Croly Walker Reid Annear Barnes Cooke
Had Couple of days spell on beach + then came up here into the firing line on right flank where there is practically
no fighting at all going on. A battery is said to be putting in good work. Can see effect of a lot of ships bombardment from here, wonderful gunnery; watched them put out of action Turkish Battery today. Lots of stray +spent bullets, lot amongst us here some of them doing damage, one lobbed foot from where I was sitting. Also an eight inch shell fell amongst us but only covered us with shower of earth. Puckle as a scout has been having some trying work with Mc (Lt) Darnell. Everything is in good working order now, regular daily rations etc. + a strong line is held from right to left.
Friday 7th Were relieved in trenches on extreme right Tuesday morning. Camped on slopes above beach till Wednesday afternoon when we went into trenches about right centre. While coming along the path up gully two of our men Barton and Foster were killed by shrapnel.
Elaborate trenches here + still being improved with communication trenches. There are a great many dead. Turks a few yards out in front visible from trenches, air is simply putrid. Same here no fighting at all in fact it is the same nearly all along the line last few days. Turks have charged gully at back of trenches here + are giving it a bad time, shrapnel getting six men yesterday +
about same number this morning, mostly from among 8th Battery.
One hundred men from C Coy + some Engineers went aboard torpedo boat + tried to land at Gaba Tepe to blow up fort which is to our right + has been silenced but received heavy resistance while landing. 3 dead, 18 wounded. Lieut. Rockliff being wounded. They had to retire back to the boats. Later in the day, Tuesday, Turks allowed a pinnace to take off wounded.
Sunday 9th Damned Turks are still onto our gully at rear line here, where we all have our dugouts. They generally drop shrapnel into it first thing in the morning + at sundown. Today just at sundown their first shell got these men all in one day out, all artillery. Another shell burst, burst on bank of my neighbours dugout about 4 yards from me, but all I got was shower of earth. Went into trenches again yesterday + came out + from today very quiet while there. Last night heard very heavy bombardment by artillery + ships, also heavy musketry fire down coast about 10 miles where British and French troops have established a footing + are making slow progress. Went out in front of trenches one day while some of our men buried dead Turks, they were not pleasant sights, especially one Australian who was wholly unrecognizable +
was an awful sight, Puckle had previously taken a piece of poetry from his pocket written most likely by his sweetheart, but as his identity disk had been removed he could not be recognised. The stench was awful, the sooner they are all buried the better for all our health.
Water is also a source of trouble to us, there are numerous springs in gullies but not enough for supply + it is generally very muddy, also certain amount is brought ashore from ships. Of course we keep going all right but a wash is a rare luxury about once in 3 days + then only about a pint of water, of course if we could get the chance + get down to the beach we try and get a swim.
So far blankets are unknown + as for undressing well that is a sheer impossibility.
Thursday 13th Things are still going on as quietly as ever, except for the artillery duels, which are more than pleasant. We have here 8th Battery (W.A.) + an Indian Mountain Battery + everywhere they fire they are answered by Turks shrapnel which seem to be in a position that can't be exactly located or are behind some hills that our guns cannot get at. Anyhow they generally manage to get some one or other about here. Tuesday morning Reg Clark of Geraldton, a really fine chap, who was boiling tea
for trenches when a shrapnel burst, a pellet of which went through his brain from which he soon died, the same shell also hit Greenwood passing through thigh + then through foot, all three of “D” Coy, 2 former of own Platoon + my section. Later in day, we of Geraldton, his friends held his burial service which was read by Louch.
Again on Thursday evening Packer + Moyans of “D” Coy were hit by shrapnel, heard former died soon after. It seems cruel to be hit like this behind the lines while not fighting. There seems to be so few casualties from firing line. Reason usually is that guns cannot get good positions unless they come right up behind firing line instead of being a good distance away behind, our dugouts are all sound + of course the fellows are walking about a good bit.
Very heavy bombardment can be heard nearly every night down south, some of our own men being down there with Tommies, it is said they are making good progress, of course here we are only playing waiting game.
It is wonderful what scant news we get here, we know practically nothing of what is going on down south or even on our flanks our flanks here. The outside world knows much more than we do, of course rumours afloat about one of which is:- That French after landing on Asiatic side, after
capturing I believe Kum Kale re-embarked + successfully landed on Gallipoli also hear that a lot of our Light Horse have landed here + are acting as Infantry as their particular line is useless here.
2nd Batn. on our left, we hear, have only 6 officers left out of 30 odd. We are badly off but not so hard hit as that. Three promotions and Commissions in Batn.
Sergts. Parry + Dunning + Pte. Smith. Puckle and I have been made full Corporals besides couple of others. Louch made Sergeant + acting 2 quarter master in our Coy. This means 10/- instead of 6/- per diem.
What hurts most is reinforcement Sergeants and Corporals coming in + preventing our own men from getting a rise. These men have not had nearly as much training as we have + it is causing a lot of complaint.
Now that our Coy has 50 reinforcements we have made up 4 Platoons instead of 3 which meant that we were hard worked, spending 24 hours in firing line, 24 trench digging + 24 in supports: now we have have same but an extra 24 hrs spell, only going into firing line every 4th day.
Tucker is much better, we get tea, sugar, tindog, potatoes onions, bacon, cheese, jam + biscuits + occasionally a small tot of rum. Of course we all do our own cooking, firewood is the difficult question, scrub
here is all green, sometimes able to steal bit of ration case. It is taking one back to the primitive living in dug outs(narrow +deep) always sleeping fully clothed when not on duty even to boots + when in firing line or supports with equipment on also. I have not had my boots off for over a week. One often wishes for a good bath, good food, good bed + about 48 hours sleep, not to speak of clean clothes, a whisky and soda + somebody to provide the clean meal etc. Until one comes on active service one can never realize what the soldier has to go through in the field. He has to put in a good word for the officers who have been used to living well +who now live exactly same as we with same food, except that now and then they get some fresh bread.
Tuesday 18th During last few days we have lost some officers without whom we will find it hard to get along. General Birdwood, slight wound in head, General Bridges bullet through groin, I believe serious; Colonel of Engineers , broken arm (shrapnel) + Major of Engineers killed.
General Walker, B’gde General of 2nd Brigade is now in command of Division.
Another of our own Coy killed (Wild) killed while cooking tea. Hobbs + I were cooking breakfast on Saturday shrapnel burst just in front of us, 2 slugs passing through his greatcoat which he was waving, he jumped in air + I dropped in dugout, each thought other was hit but luckily
both escaped. One gets tired of enumerating ones narrow escapes. We all have them nearly every day.
Couple of small attacks on left flanks last night in which hand grenades were used, easily repulsed + not much damage done. Right flank quiet except for shrapnel which simply rains in this position of ones line.
Tommies + Gurkhas down south are said to have gained considerable ground.
Town of Gallipoli is said to be in ruins from warship fire + Turks are said to be in bad way through want of food.
Yarn came along that 2 German officers + 3 Turks jumped down into one of our sapping trenches, of which there are several to form a new firing line + surrendered.
Puckle has injured both his hands + poisoning has set in, he is in a bad way. He’s absolutely helpless, had to wash his face etc. for him. He went to Field Hospital yesterday.
Major Denton who somehow managed to sit upon one of his own mens bayonets during first few days, causing slight wound to his posterior, arrived back here yesterday. He says Captain Croly will most likely lose his arm.
Saturday 22nd On Thursday evening enemy’s guns began a heavy bombardment of our lines commencing about an hour before sundown + lasting until dark. Their main objective was our position here + 1st Brigade on our left
There were 12 guns in one position which fired simultaneously all shells landing round our trenches + behind our lines. One may rest assured there were not many heads showing. The din + roar of bursting shells was beyond description. We were in firing line, at time some of us being on observation in saps which run out from line. Many shells lobbed on and around saps. On shell burst on side of sap, many small splinters hitting Hobbs and Simpson in face besides scorching them, a couple of others were there + were covered with stones + earth. Beyond being slightly shaken no one was beyond carrying out his duties.
About midnight after moon had gone down, Turks who had been reinforced by about 2 Divisions attacked all along the line coming on in massed formation. Mainly on centre and left but not so much on right. They were very plucky getting right up to trenches in several places, a few even got into trenches on left + also 2nd Batn. where they killed two of our men + 1 officer before they got their quietus.
They were mown down in hundreds especially in front of 2nd Batn. where they are piled on top each other. At time I was on duty out at head of sap some 60 yards from firing line. It was not too pleasant there having enemys fire from front + ones from rear whistling all around us. Anyhow we stuck to our position as none of enemy troubled us.
Enemy returned + made another big attack at dawn being again repulsed. This time for over 2 hours I was able to lend a helping hand firing some
150 rounds. To right of sap there is a deep gully + good view of approach to our trenches. Many Turks who had approached lines there were returning singly + in groups. At ranges from 300 to 500 yards they were easy targets + were snipped at from every direction. It seemed cruel knocking them over when they were not offering resistance but it had to be done.
During day we discovered some Turks in dugout and trench about 20 yards in front of sap. We threw some hand grenades among them doing some damage. Then after lots of shouting, interpritus, throwing notes + collection of our Batn. officers, 6 of them came in + surrendered, some of them being wounded.
Enemy’s casualties reckoned at 2000 killed + 5000 wounded. Our casualties were light about 600 of which 300 were able to return to firing line after having wounds dressed. 2nd Batn. lost 12 killed and 2 officers. We lost a few.
Following night was quiet. Thursday again heavy bombardment + small attack. Their shells landing all along line here, killing 2 of our Coy in trench + wounding Sergeant Ross + also a couple of others.
Enemy’s aeroplane flew over our position during Friday + dropped bomb into sea. Our planes and gunboats doing good work.
We are again heavily worked being in trenches nearly every night + day + getting snatches of sleep when
possible. Also living in communication trenches in small dugout in walls. Very little room for traffic + cooking meals etc. A lot of white flags on enemy’s part lately.
Some men come in from Gaba Tepe yesterday along beach under one + about + about a Coy came in from same place later on.
General Ian Hamilton is said to arrive here today. It is rumoured that we get a spell shortly.
Monday 24th Today at 10am we were relieved by the 6th Light Horse for a couple of days. It was quite a relief to get out of the trenches. My Platoon had been 2½ out of the last 3 days in trenches + other ½ day in support so one may imagine what we went through lately. It meant getting a snatch of sleep for an hour or two whenever possible + in any position. Well here we are outside again till Tuesday.
150 of our men made sorte out of 2 of our saps Saturday night. Machine gun very heavy, rifle fire opened on them which immediately brought them tumbling over one another into the sap again.
Anyhow it gave a fair idea of machine guns, which have been worrying us lately, but at same time it seemed a mad idea sending them out. Lost one man.
We have several Japanese mortars in lines which are doing excellent work. Two of them were used in Russo Japanese war. These are the only ones of this kind in the world + were lent by Japan to us. Cylindrical shell about 9 inches by 6 inches containing some yellow explosive which is a Jap secret. When first fired we can see shell go away up into the air + then down down into Turkish position. Extreme range about 450 yards. Time explosion or percussion.
German aeroplane over us yesterday, fired at by ships, dropped bomb which exploded some 200 yards from here killing one man. Made extraordinary dropping from enormous height.
Two of our cruisers came in very close to Gaba Tepe point + simply raked the Olive Grove, a low ridge some 2 miles long for couple of hours. It was one continual explosion + ridge was mass of smoke + dust. Only living thing I saw there was man galloping right into shelled area.
Today there was an armistice to bury dead which I must say were rather permeating the air. Red Cross and Red Crescent flags could be seen all along the line + hundreds of our men + Turks were out at the job. Most of Turks wearing bandage over nostrils to relieve them of stench. Turks burying those closest to their line + we the same. I believe there were very few of our own men found round this right flank.
One of our chaps had been mutilated, being wounded in both knees which were bandaged, he had been unable to get back to lines, was overtaken + big cross ripped in stomach, neck + another vile mutilation performed. No wonder one sometimes hears our men curse + vow they would never take a prisoner
Our men and Turks were mixing together and talking where possible, exchanging cigarettes etc. Some said that now their dead were buried Allah would allow them to go to victory. In places bodies were piled one on top of another, especially in some old trenches + in concealed places. Scores were found that were no known of before. It is said that our estimation of their dead 2000 was very much under number, Turks admitting to at least 3000. The amnesty lasted from 8am till 4.20pm + is now over. Rifle fire on small scale has now recommenced.
General Bridges died on Hospital Ship + was buried at Alexandria. We all mourn this loss of such a fine soldier. General Birdwood is about again.
Wednesday 26th It transpires that small attack on Thursday night was carried out under German methods + during afternoon Turkish Officer was seen approaching our lines under flag of truce, one of our own Generals(I believe) went + met him. Officer asked for armistice to bury dead. But owing to time of day + request not coming from right quarter + several other suspicious signs, the request was not granted. Soon after dark long lines of Turks with hands up were seen approaching, but behind them were seen many more fully armed. What could our men do but open fire which sent them helter skelter back to their lines
After armistice our guns + Jap mortars shelled enemy. Mortars worked late into the night doing lots of damage. Turks must have thought we were going to attack + suddenly opened up withering fire to which our men hardly answered a shot. We in rear on spell thought that something was toward + put on own equipment in readiness. I dont think that we sustained any casualties.
Yesterday our Coy went back into line. From here we have view of Gaba Tepe, the coast to south + large expanse of sea. We witnessed about 2 miles away, just off Gaba Tepe one of the saddest sights one could see.
It appears that some enemy submarines had escaped from I believe the Adriatic + a couple had been noticed in this vicinity a few days ago with the result that the scores of transports anchored off there had left + taken cover at Embros and Lemnos Islands. Yesterday it is said that Vengeance was pursued by a submarine, she gave signal to the Triumph, sister ship to Swiftsure + the hero of 17 engagements which was lying off Gaba Tepe, preparatory to one of her bombardments, to move . Apparently Triumph did not take heed for she was torpedoed ; signals were sent out + T.B.D.s raced from all directions. She at once began to list to starboard, but a T.B.D. was soon at hand to aid in rescue +
search for submarine. Scores of pinnaces + trawlers flocked out to her to lend a helping hand.
First TBD + other boats were soon packed with sailors. Wake of submarine periscope could be seen even from here 200 yards from Triumph, several shots fired without effect, it then disappeared.
'Triumph' listed more + more + suddenly with very little warning she rolled right over 4 hours after being hit. She had still many men on her of whom I believe about 50 were killed by explosion or drowned.
She remained keel uppermost for another 20 minutes + finally settled down just leaving a patch of oil to denote where she was lying. Scores of lifeboats, pinnaces, trawlers + T.B.D.s stood by picking up those in water + afterwards waiting for any bodies that might come to the surface. One of the cruelest sights was to see enemies shrapnel bursting over them during rescue operations.
In meantime T.B.D.s had spread out in all directions scouring the waters for miles round in search of submarine. About an hour later in practically same spot where Triumph floundered we could all see wake of submarine. One T.B.D. close + handy raced full speed at her, turned in her own length trying to ram it + then fired shot into water not 20 yards off.
She then stopped dead + we concluded she had got it. T.B.D.s came racing back from all directions hovered around for a while + then again scattered. We later
heard that T.B.D. did not get submarine.
Last night was extremely quiet in trenches. There was one sad occurrence Lieutenant Smith, newly promoted from machine gun section, was shot in head through loophole + killed. He had done wonderful work with M.Gun for which he received promotion; it seems very sad after getting on so well.
General Birdwood is having a few days spell + is being relieved by General Carruthers of S. African fame.
We have received the good news that Italy has declared war, that Bulgaria and Romania are not far off it + best of all that Russians have landed 2 days march from Constantinople; how much truth there is in it all, time will tell. This afternoon French aeroplane at height of some 5000 feet flew over us + while we watched her we saw her drop a bomb, watching its flight until it dropped with awful explosion into Turkish lines ¼ mile from here.
Seven of our Coy arrived back this evening from Egypt, all suffered slight wounds during first few days.
Monday 31st Very little happened last few days except that we don't seem to get too much rest owing to shortage of men.
At last after clearing out 2 saps out some 90 yards we have formed our new firing line + have connected
up with 2nd Batn. on left + C Coy on right. At present there is very little room in it as as yet it has not been improved. Just having observation posts made. There are 10 posts along our Coy. line each with 6 men, 2 observing at a time. This means 60 men on duty every night. Working 2 hrs observing, 2 hrs standing by, 2 hrs sleeping through 24 hrs. Then when they are relieved one Platoon goes working party + one into support.
Men are complaining of overwork + began kicking up a row, anyhow things are being altered for the better today. Major Denton has got squadron of Light Horse to help.
We are beginning to play ruses on enemy + make them waste ammunition. Sometimes at night our men place bayonets above parapet so that moon shining on them are visible from front line + begin yelling out. Turks thinking we are going to charge invariably open up with fire + which we don't respond.
Yesterday Turks blew up one of our saps killing + wounding few N.Zders + 16th Batn. They then used part of trench temporarily occupying it. N.Zders reformed + charged driving Turks back of 2 lines of their trenches, killing about 400.
Also on our right some of 9th B’tn. charged a trench bayoneting 6 + taking 1 prisoner. T.B.D helped with gunfire.
We have no cruisers here at all now, all having gone elsewhere, only about ½ doz T.B.D.s to protect any shipping.
Even all cargo boats + transports have left here + taken shelter from submarines.
Only one or two being here at a time when absolutely necessary + then closely protected by T.B.D.s
Two of our submarines have been doing marvellous work in Bosphorus + Sea of Marmosa sinking several transports etc.
Just heard that that hostile submarine was captured at Lemnos being run into Torpedo nets protecting harbour.
More of our first wounded arrived back today, among them being Warren [??] from Geraldton. They were at Malta where they had a good time; inhabitants went to see them arrive thinking they were going to see black fellows + of course were greatly disappointed.
One of my section Heys, a reinforcement was going on sentry at mouth of sap last night when short bullet hit him in back, running along shoulder blade about four inches but just beneath skin. Had bullet extracted + is back with us having a few days rest.