Part 5 - Capt. B.E. Bardwell Diary Transcription - August 1915
Tuesday 2nd This is very intricate piece of trench work having several firing lines, some of them concealed, also underground communication trenches. The actual firing line is a detached post about a 100 odd
yards out in front partly across a wheat field. Some 50 yards in front just on the brow of the hill is a Turkish trench, practically all of which is invisible from here.
Well tunnels have been run out to nearly under the Turkish trench + on Saturday night at about 11pm these were blown up, the most heavily charged not going off as electric wire had been broken.
Immediately after 50 men from each Coy. charged the trenches. A terrific fire was opened by Turks from their main firing line also many field guns opened on us. Our men seized the trench driving the Turks out at point of bayonet. But they were enfiladed by machine guns + a small detached trench which was still held by Turks. Another party of about 30 men went out to drive Turks out of this position. I believe only 4 of this party escaped unharmed.
All through the night men were busy reconstructing the trench by making suitable to face the Turks, making observation posts, filling bags for parapet + deepening trench + connecting tunnels with trench for communication.
By yesterday night it was made practically safe. Bombs were freely thrown at our men all through the night + early next morning field guns played on a trench.
Our casualties were at the least 5 killed + 100 wounded. Poor old Puckle was killed leading his men just before leaping into the trench. It is awfully hard + one somehow cannot realize
as yet he is gone. He was loved by everyone + was a brave man + and a gentleman his career has been nipped in the bud. It seems the same with all our subalterns who have risen from the ranks. Lieut. Parry, Smith + Puckle have been killed, Lieut. Polten wounded (last night) + Lieut. Dunning gone away ill.
Cargug (sic. Cargeeg) was also killed + Dentyonny wounded, all the old friends seem to be going. Capt. Leane (right) was also wounded.
I was on duty in the firing line at the time so could not take part in attack.
The rest of “D” Coy relieved the position at midday, one saw some awful sights after crawling through small gap connecting trench with tunnel. The first sight that met our eyes was a dead Turk in a sitting position who had been buried by the fall of earth after explosion. Next were many of our dead outside the trench about a yard apart, then 2 more dead strung up to side of trench to keep trench clear. Then (I did not notice until later) a body in bottom of trench covered in sand + everyone walking over it, part of head and arms showing.. Then one in sitting position with head blown off by shell, he had just been going to fire + Last off all a Turk thrown upon parados with big hole in head, he had odd worn out boots, strips of blanket for puttees, trousers were just held together by huge patches etc.
The day was extremely hot + though so soon the air was becoming putrid. Nearly all our dead were brought in last night but there are many Turks to be buried yet. They must have lost at least 100 killed
Monday 9th Here I am aboard the hospital ship “Sicilia” in bed with a shrapnel pellet in thigh + by the feel of it, it is mighty close to the joint as it is absolutely impossible for me to bend or move my leg at all. It means of course XRays + chloroform, but taking it all round it is a very minor wound.
Well to go back to last Wednesday. The 6th + 7th Reinforcements arrived and were drafted into Batn. bringing it nearly up to strength again (300 in all) One officer Lieut. Hall was drafted to our Coy.
Early Friday morning Turks made an attack on Leane’s trench, The aforementioned one captured from them last week + gained a footing in part of it. A bomb fight ensued and then part of “D” Coy. 15 + 16 platoons launched an attack from Tasmania post + got very badly cut up.
Leane’s post is open to fire from over a mile of Turkish trenches, in some places 2 lines + also field guns, result was our chaps had an exceedingly bad time. In the end Turks were driven out. Word then came that a party of Turks just down the slope, concealed were undermining the trench preparatory to blowing it up. Thirty men from 13 platoon under Lieut. Hall were ordered to drive them out at point of bayonet. This was at about 9am. Before starting we all knew that it was practically hopeless job + that we would
be lucky if we got back alive. It was between 8 + 9 am + a clear bright day. We had to charge from Tasmania post over a wheat field for about 60 yards + then down the thick bushy slopes to where the Turks were working. As soon as we made our appearance “Hell” was let loose from Turkish trenches, machine guns + hundreds of rifles played on us also shrapnel. I dont know whether anyone ever came to grips with the Turks. I know I did not. I got couple of yards down the hill when I got a crack, a bomb bursting just in front of me + thought my ticket was up. I was not wounded except for a very small scratch, a piece of covering of bomb had hit my shoulder adhering to my tunic, the fellows were lying everywhere, trying to take cover of which there was absolutely none, all of them being hit. I received one from shrapnel in thigh, was lying in 6 inch dip in ground when Turks threw another bomb which lobbed alongside me, rolled out onto flat ground just in time, it exploded immediately afterwards + would have been all up with me if I had lain still. I was now in hopelessly exposed position on edge of wheat field.
Bullets sprayed all round knocking up sand everywhere, got a crack in foot + thought my toes were gone, but no they were still there. I did not think I was hit badly as a little later seeing a couple of fellows making a dive for Leane’s trench 20 yards distant. I thought I would chance it too so up I got to find my leg give under me down I went again. Took cover behind
a 6 inch mound of earth with my head well down. I can tell you I did not feel too happy being there helpless with the bullets splashing all round + with plenty of time on my hands to do some thinking + wondering how long it would be before I was layed right out. Next to me lay Keys, 7th reinforcements + one time of Koogirina, hit through the head + I believe dead; a little more to the left was Frank Rooke hit in the back, to right were several others some wounded + some dead. Down the hill were more in what plight I know not. One fellow with finger blown off crawled up and made a dive for trench. He got there safely but attracted all the fire again which had slightly slackened off.
After lying for 2 hours imitating the dead, a stretcher bearer who was at end of trench got his ????? on me + induced me to have a try to get in. Previously I had decided to lie there till dark + then come in. Just as well I did not as 10 to 1 I would have been knocked out as there was to be a big attack that night. Edged my way on my stomach a few inches at a time, dragging my equipment after me, over some poor dead fellows legs until I got to rear of left end of trench where two fellows with aid of a shovel pulled me over into trench and safety.
I heard later there were still 18 of 30 missing among them being Sgt. Oxlade of Geraldton + Lieut. Hall. God knows whether they were all killed or not. And of those who got
in nearly all were wounded. Concerning my trip to the Hospital ship I will give a brief summary.
From Leane’s trench I was carried through tunnels + communicating trenches to the dressing station where my wound was dressed, placed on a stretcher + carried by Batn. bearers to another station where I was handed over to 4 bearers who carried me down to clearing station on beach, where I only waited about an hour. Two barges were to take us out towed by a pinnace. As all stretcher accommodation was taken up I was propped up on some boxes + had rather an unpleasant trip out owing to barge bumping against pinnace whole time. Hauled up on deck on a stretcher by winch + then carried below and placed in bunk + after a time had wound redressed. I envy some of the fellows who can get out and hop about. Ones back gets very sore when it is the only position one can be in as my leg seems paralysed at joint + prevents me getting any other position with comfort.
Sunday 15th That Friday night sup. some operations commenced aided by new landing force at Suvla Bay. No news is published here in Egypt but by what one can gather wonderful progress has been made of course at cost of huge casualty list. Although we were the first boat to fill we were not the first at Alexandria. We left Anzac on Saturday morning, went to Embros, discharged most walking cases into large liner, went back to Anzac on Sunday, took on more patients, left for Lemnos where more walking patients disembarked + others came aboard + finally left for Alexandria on Tuesday morning, where we arrived about Thursday midday. The ship had about 600 patients aboard, 500 being in beds in wards, remainder on deck, we could by no means complain at our treatment.
Thursday afternoon more serious cases were sent ashore. I may remark there were 50 deaths on the trip across, rather a large percentage I should say. Next morning Aust. + Z’ders were sent to Cairo by Hospital train. British cases remaining at Alexandria.
Train was very comfortable + clean, each patient having a sheeted bed to himself. Had light lunch aboard, roll + butter + egg, + arrived at Heliopolis mid afternoon, stopping just opposite Heliopolis Palace Hospital, a fine edifice I described some months ago. Taken by motor ambulance to front entrance, deposited in hall, had particulars taken, ticketed + carried away to No7 ward upstairs. Got a bed alongside a window with fair outlook, cool breeze in morning but rather hot during afternoon. We are excellently looked after here, plenty of doctors, nurses and orderlies good + plenty of plain nourishing food. Clean comfortable beds etc. They say they are going to put me under X Rays to locate pellet, of course if it is bad position it will
have to come out. The wound itself is painless + getting on well + stiffness is gradually leaving muscles + allowing movement of leg to slight extent, although at present cannot put an ounce of weight on it. Going to have to try to get around on crutch later on. Night nurse of this ward remembers us when we lived at Canning Bridge, asked if I was one of the swimming Bardwells.
There is an old friend of Hugh Pickles in my room, went to school together for years. They were both in same Coy. in 5th Batn. His name is Bossaman.
Friday 20 Have been able to get round on crutches last few days. But here I am again on my back for a few more days. On Wednesday I was put under X Ray + bullet was located near the bone, some 6 inches lower down than point of entrance.
Thursday morning went under chloroform. Had been warned that I would be rotten after it, would be allowed no water, food etc. It took some time to send me off, I can remember doctors talking saying the liquid evaporated too quickly + it might be necessary to keep mask over face throughout operation. I can remember thinking that I was not quite off yet but was determined to be. Still thinking of dreaming this I awoke to find myself back in my own bed. Felt sleep suffocated + leg was rather sore for an hour or so but after that resolutely picked up book + read + was so much better ½ hour later when lunch arrived that
I had some nice custard + later had enormous tea + then supper.
But had rotten night, leg was rather painful + could not get comfortable position, the night was also very close. Sat up in bed half the night but today felt first rate + if I go on at same rate it won’t be long before I am out of hospital. Received visit from Archdeacon Collet who had just arrived from W.A. He recognised a resemblance + found he was right in his surmise. Had been in South Africa with Bernie + again just lately in camp with him.
Monday 23rd Am going ahead first rate + am going to give the crutches another try this afternoon. Have been fortunate in having some visitors. On Saturday Lieut. Gibbings of Geraldton + another officer of 28th Batn. visited me. They are at present garrisoned at the Citadel.
On Sunday, my birthday, I had a very pleasant surprise in a visit from Tiny Noyt. Last time I heard from him he said he and Hocking were joining the Light Horse but they were unable to get in so they joined the 16th A.A.S.C. + are just present at the Aerodrome Heliopolis. We spent the whole afternoon conjuring up old times + past experiences.
Also Frank Wright (image on right) of Geraldton who is in A.M.C. has come in nearly every day + also Sister Tyers whom I met in W.A.
We have plenty of excellent food + are looked after splendidly by everybody. One of the patients, Green of 11th Batn. Reinforcements goes out from here this afternoon to another Hospital. He has a small splinter of bomb embedded behind knee, rather dangerous operation so it is being left with the hope that his leg will straighten with exercise + that fragment will work out. Another fellow in this room Cpl. Banks of 13th Batn. has bullet in forehead. It had passed through crack in skull not damaging the bone. They are afraid to remove it + so most likely he will be sent home. He saw a very interesting X Ray photo of it.
I forgot to mention that Lieut. Franklin who though only a boy promised to be such a fine officer was mortally wounded on Friday 6th + died aboard the Sicilia, also Lieut. Proctor (sic.) who was just promoted was killed. He was an old school acquaintance.
Monday 30th Am still here in No 7 ward enjoying the comfort + lazy life + the food. I am able once again to get about without crutches, the wound having nearly healed being perfectly clean right through.
Have had social visitors visitors lately A.J. Brown who was hit by bomb some time ago + who is at present at Helonian came up to be X Rayed as Drs. at last really thought there must be something in his leg. It was found there was a piece of
bomb embedded in thigh bone + bone is decaying. He told me Drs. said it would mean a trip to Aust. + would be at least 12 months before he would be fit again + then the silly young ass is talking of rejoining his Batn. Incidentally he comes from Geraldton.
Tiny Noye came in on Saturday but it was to say goodbye as he was off to Gallipoli with the 6th B’gde. on Sunday. It was hard luck after having just found each other to lose sight of one another immediately afterwards.
The 6th B’gde. left yesterday + the 7th B’gde. leave about next Sunday. May good luck go with them. Five days ago Lieut. Metcalf (sic. Medcalf) of 11th Batn. was admitted here suffering from dysentery. I saw him the next day, he gave me a piece of news that nearly bowled me over being so unexpected. It was to the effect that I had been granted a commission along with Sgt. Major Mason, Sgts Louch + Archibald (all D Coy.) + several others.
Bardwell Louch Archibald Medcalf
I can't quite imagine yet that I Beresford Bardwell will be entitled to wear a star + will be the recipient of 21/- per diem. I am trying to substantiate my claims their medium Lieut. Metcalf at Aust. Intermediate Base Cairo, where it should be gazetted sooner or later so that I may take advantage of it while recuperating. I have both Capt. Corley + our lost friend Lieut. Franklin to thank for the change in
my future. I can’t quite realize it yet + often think I will wake up + find it all a dream.
Gallipoli news is absolutely nil and all we know is that our centre + left flanks have advanced well in conjunction with landing at Suvla Bay. Let us hope the boys will continue the way they have been going + bring the campaign to a speedy end as a winter campaign there would be absolute hell.
That little charge I was in, 8 got back, one of whom was unwounded, rest out of 30 killed. God ! Its awful.