Part 4 - Capt. B.E. Bardwell Diary Transcription - July 1915
Friday 2nd Have not written up notes last few days as mislaid notebook. Last Sunday I believe a hell of a bombardment began down South, some thousands reinforcements were landed + big movement was on. We could see bursting shrapnel + clouds of dust raised by percussion shells from here.
Word came along about midday (we found out later) to cause a demonstration here so as to prevent reinforcements from going South to Turks help.
Parts of our Coys were ordered to hop over parapets + advance some distance out in front. Parts of most of our Brigade + 8th Light
Horse also went to extreme right + there took some trenches. Turks massed to counter attack but were dispersed with help of our torpedo boat guns. Our fellows had no need to hold trenches so later in day retired in good order back to their own trenches.
Of course enemy gun + rifle fire was terrific, shell after shell bursting in front of our lads there causing a perfect screen of dust + doing some damage. Our movement had desired effect in preventing reinforcements going South which were on point of moving. Our casualties were some 250 all told. Our Batn. having 19 killed about 40 wounded + a few missing.
La Nauze McDonald
Two nights ago storm suddenly arose, night pitch dark, I believe Turks thought we would attack so opened up fire, no damage done. They got in before us in blowing up some tunnels in 2nd Batn. lines. Ours were already to be blown up + were to be on Wednesday night but Turks blew up one of theirs + spoilt our two; burying a couple of poor fellow. Officer + NCO who went into rescue them were overcome with fumes(not serious). Snipers have also been getting a few of our fellows lately.
Our Platoon have been kept on working party for some time now, last arrangement was knocked on head at its birth. Go for water twice daily which takes some time owing to distance + Scarcity of precious fluid, also rations to beach + Hd Q’ters, besides others on diggings.
Tuesday 6th We came back into the firing line on 3rd July. Just before coming in Turks began dropping, I believe, 9 inch shells in vicinity of our gully, the first landing some 150 yards distant 3rd shell hit a 2nd Batn. dugout, smashed 4 inch beam and broke in roof but luckily did not explode, immediately 2 men crawled from amongst wreckage absolutely unharmed. There was roars of laughter from onlookers most of whom had not taken cover.
I am afraid we are all more or less careless in that way + the wonder of it is that we don’t lose more men than we do. These shells can generally be seen coming, their approach is notified by a roar gaining in sound until the shell itself becomes visible hurtling through the air most probably to drop only a few yards distant + more likely than not, not to burst , many of them are old fashioned lead coated shells + I believe
come across from Chanack on Asiatic side.
Things more or less quiet in lines, there have been several artillery duels between our guns a few yards off + enemy’s on left. They sent the shells in some Yesterday morning, but although they burst overhead + all round us, I only heard two + slept through rest as I had just come off night shift. They have just been giving us a bit more. Yesterday they got into one gun killing one + wounding three.
Gun men are doing good work down South gaining ground + repelling all attacks with severe loss to Turks.
Russian retreat looks alarming but for their well ordered method in hitting back hard at enemy when opportunity occurs.
We have lost both Capt. Williams and Major Denton who have both gone away sick so we are now in the hands of two subalterns, one 18, other 24years old, both reinforcements, older Lieut. Gostelow who joined just previous to our landing, both men are quite capable of looking after us.
Wednesday 14th Luckily Capt. Williams arrived back about the 9th but we have no idea how long Major Denton will be away. On 10th, 2nd Batn.
blew up a tunnel but I don't think it did any extensive damage.
On 11th we were informed that it was a Turkish Holy Festival Day + to look out for something happening. Right through the night our lines let Turks know that we were well awake by sending in fusillades of anything up to 100 rounds rapid, which were well answered by enemy. Also there was a lively exchange of bombs + several of our guns sent many shells into Turks lines. Also star shells were fired which in places caused fires among the bushes.
Otherwise nothing of importance has occurred here lately. Spending any length of time in trenches becomes awfully monotonous + after 10 days just as we were becoming bored to death we were relieved by the 10th Batn. First time we have left those particular trenches for 10 weeks. This seems to be a jumble of times however we are now supposed to be having some 10 days spell situated in steep hill in old badly made dugouts + trenches some 200 yards behind firing line with several howitzer (Glasgow) guns 50 yards below us. It is no rest as we still have numerous fatigues + are not away from the sound of firing. Even last night at 11.30pm they came + woke section Commanders to wake men + tell them that enemy were massing in front +
that they had to put on boots + equipment. They could not even let us have our first night as a proper rest. Well it is all in a soldiers days work, so as they say “Keep ‘er ead up”
It is said good news has been received from down South + that we will hear it tomorrow.
Wednesday 21st So far no news of any importance has come through. We have any amount of work to do while here. Every 4th day we are duty Coy. when we have to send large batches of men down to the beach both day and night, as well as supply our own Coy. fatigues, generally to haul huge square iron tanks from the beach up some narrow twisting track up the very steep hill to a huge platform, some 150 ft. above sea level, where they are being placed in position for the purpose, I believe, of holding some six weeks reserve water supply. The other day I had 25 men down + as our party was too small to shift tanks on its own we joined with 50 Maoris. They are a fine nuggety stamp of men + wonderful workers. As I had a bonzer new Khaki shirt on that Campbell had given me I looked generally
clean for once + as I was helping to superintend affairs, many of Maoris took me for a “bloomin officer”, of course I did not enlighten them on the subject.
Its a hard life here + I am sure the majority of us feel that we want a spell right away from the place to recuperate. We seem to be losing all strength and energy. What with the lack of enough good nourishing food, diarrhea, stiff hill climbing, varying hours of duty, although last few days we have had slight change of tucker for better, being issued with fresh meat, some rice + flour which makes quite an appreciable change from continual dog and biscuit.
If we did not see the humorous side of somethings + be amused by the unintentional doings + sayings of a couple of fellows here, I really don't know how we would drag through life. Anyhow the boys have all got life in them still + if it came to a pinch would I am sure put up as good a fight as on the first day of landing.
Four Commission's been granted in Batn. Puckle, Proctor, Metcalf + Potter, last named I do know. Puckle of course, we are all extremely sorry to lose as of course he goes to another Coy. He was liked by everyone + I can safely
say no one will miss him more than I will. Anyhow Good Luck to him + a brilliant future.
Proctor (sic. Prockter)+ Metcalf (sic. Medcalf) are both old school acquaintances of mine. It has appeared in Gidus that 100,000 reinforcement Turks, many of them, I believe raw recruits from Adrianople are on their way down here.
Monday 26th Things have been just as quiet last few days + we have not had quite so much work to do. Also the tucker seems to be on the improvement. And then if one gets hold of good energetic cooks they take an interest in trying to please the men. We had an issue of tin milk first time today. 1 tin for 8 men.
We have been expecting a big attack lately from 100,000 reinforcements, especially on 21st + 22nd July which were beginning of Turkish Religious Festival days, result is that since then we have stood to every night at moon set + again from 3 to 4am.
Three of our platoon arrived back from Malta a couple of days ago, they were wounded the day we landed. They were all as right as rain for several weeks past but the doctors did not seem to want to turn them out + send them back. There seems a great laxity in this, by all accounts there are hundreds of men at Alexandria, Cairo, + Malta who are quite recovered from their wounds, some put in the complaint that they don't feel fit to come
back just because they don't want to face the hardships + wish to stay there + have a good easy time. Others are given a cursory examination by doctors + are kept behind. I reckon the authorities ought to have a big cleaning up of all Hospital centres, pack the men aboard ship + send them back here. It seems hard when one thinks there are so many others who have been here for three solid months + still have no prospect of a spell.
It made one feel quite envious when these fellows told us of the good times they have been having at Malta, they were on the first ship load of Australians to arrive there. Both the English + Maltese inhabitants could not do enough for them, decorated them with flowers, held receptions, invited them to their homes, times out of number + took them for motor drives, mixed bathing parties etc. They all seemed surprised that our fellows were not black + that they all spoke excellent English. It still shows how little known Australia is to people in this part of the world.
We relieve the 12th Batn. in their trenches tomorrow, it being a new position to us + in places only 30 yards from Jacko’s trenches. I believe we only go in for a fortnight or so.