Part 3 - Capt. B.E. Bardwell Diary Transcription - June 1915
Sweet relief - new supplies and a swim
Thursday 3rd Talking to young Mathews (sic. Matthews) of Geraldton, brother to one in our Coy. who is in 16th Batn. 16th Batn. was at Quinns Post a rather hot corner, he said out of original Batn. + 4 reinforcement, in all about 1400, there were only 180 left.
God knows how many were killed. In one place Turks trench
was only 6 foot from them others 6 yards.
Most of casualties caused through hand grenades. Other day when Turks exploded their sap, they occupied sap and hole caused by explosion but were soon driven out, then mass of Turks charged but were demolished by M.Gun + rifle fire. They also fired on some of their own men in dark, mistaking them for our chaps. They left behind them between 150-200 casualties.
Yesterday couple of our own shells hit embankment of our own Coy. trenches , one exploding, no damage done. Put down to faulty manufacture. I took news to Batn. Hd Q’ters which was finally handed on to B’gde. Hd Q’ters
Major Denton received D. S. C. for services rendered during first few days. Telephoning positions of enemy guns etc. gained through help + good work of Capt. Everret + Lt. Selby at beach enabling ships guns to shell these positions. I should have liked to have seen these two officers recognised in some way for great work done by them. Also Sgt. Ayling received D.C.M.
Saturday 5th Thursday afternoon was sent in charge of party to Army Corps. Hd Q’ters for water as our own gully is just about dry + water question on this right flank is causing lot of trouble. After leaving our quarters here one goes along a broad winding + steep track down the course of the gully until one arrives at the beach. This track is of our own making being levelled + made wide enough for the passing along of field guns.
On way down one passes two dressing stations comfortably ensconced in bomb proof dugout. On arrival at foot of gully there is an encampment of Red Cross people on slope of steep hill all well dug in.. They seem to be having more of a pleasure camp than being on active service. Many of the men are dressed only in a pair of knickers, their backs + legs being extremely sunburnt, a state in which I envy them; they seem to run down + indulge in a swim whenever they like, where as we poor fellows don't know what it is like to wash our faces for a week at a time sometimes + in some cases our boots don’t leave our feet for speaking for myself , 9 days at a stretch.
One then winds his way along the beach towards Hd.Q’ters, he first comes to a pontoon jetty alongside which is a barge, on the beach is a pile of cases of tinned foods etc. also a stack of bales of fodder.
From here the beach begins to show life + business. A little further on one comes across rows of carts, guns carriages, stacks of timber and panels for pontoon jetty building, carpenters making barrows, blacksmiths sharpening tools, gangs making roadway up cliff, crowds of store fatigues, Red Cross men plying their trade to the clearing station, which is composed of several large excavations in face of cliff, bomb proofed + well fitted out, situated right opposite large pontoon jetty. Then come piles + piles of cases of food rising some 20 feet into the air, also fodder , ammunition, all the material necessary for the upkeep of a large army.
Hundreds are in swimming or washing clothes after long confinement in trenches. And don't they roll in it, in one place they have made a springboard on the end of a barge which has been made useless by enemy shrapnel + here some show their skill at diving.
Looking at the steep hill which rises from the beach to several hundred feet one perceives the whole face is honeycombed with dugouts of all shapes and sizes all more or less shrapnel proof. Many have quite elaborate little homes made with boxes, waterproof sheets, blankets or sacking + any little knick knack procurable from beach.
Overhead telephone + telegraph wires run in all directions from Hd Q’ters. Looking out to sea one perceives several cargo boats with barges towed by pinnaces plying between them + shore. In the offing can be seen a Cruiser near Gulf of Saros, shepherded by ½ doz. T.B.D.s firing broadside after broadside into some enemy position.
The report of her discharge takes 20 secs. to reach here, she is some 7000 yards distant. Occasionally an enemy shrapnel bursts over the beach or well out over the water, but the men seem to have grown callous to it all + take no notice unless extremely close when they may take cover until quietness reigns again.
Having filled our water cans we
trudge back a mile round the beach, have a rest + take the opportunity of having a swim. We find the water rather sharp after last few cold nights + our non acquaintance with it for over a week.
Then we begin our long weary trudge back up the long slope to that little bit of land that belongs to us ( D Coy or what is left of it)
That night we played one of our ruses by firing 10 rounds rapid, but I am afraid Turks are taking a tumble to our ways, except round left where there was quite lively exchange of shots for a time.
Yesterday down South in vicinity of Cape Helles some 10 miles from here a furious bombardment by Cruisers, T.B.D.s + Allies land guns raged early morn until late at night, the sound reaching us in one continual roar. Many of the shots we could see land on nearer slopes denoted by huge columns of dust + smoke. And over the whole vicinity was a canopy of dust. I believe the enemy casualties were enormous.
Last night another heavy fusilade all round line with cooperation of our 18 pounders + mortars. On left things were rather warm. N.Z’ders captured 2 trenches but evacuated them this morning as they were of no use to them with our own lines.
Friday 11th From Saturday 4pm till yesterday 4pm our Coy. have been
spelled by Light Horse(C) It is the longest spell we have had so far + I must say was greatly appreciated by all. We had several bathing parties + each time brought back drinking water. One day I was chosen by Major Denton to represent our Coy. in a canteen which was going to be situated on one of the boats. Being late in reporting at 3rd Brigade Hd Q’ters I hurried down to beach + was just in time to jump aboard pinnace + go out to one of the mine destroyers. On arrival found they had just got the leavings of troop ship canteens which they wanted to equally divide among B’tns. of Division.
I was only one from our Batn. so could only take a certain amount of stuff amounting to £2-5/-, milk, jam, cordials, sauces,potted meats, toothbrushes, paste, etc. On arrival back at the beach found there was no one to meet me as arranged, so after struggling with my load some distance I left half with some stranger in his dugout, trusting to his honesty + took rest on, coming back for remainder later on. What little I had the men rushed, could have made enormous profit if I had wanted to. They were awfully disappointed when I told them it was just a sale of some spare stock.
While on spell we had a couple of night spasms. First night representatives from each Coy. under different officers. Went out + were supposed to attack certain trench. Through some muddling at first we did not get get our right
particulars with result that affair was absolute farce. Some of our Coy. followed Capt. R in mistake, owing to dark, who was supposed to act as covering part with his men. He took his men about ½ mile more to right than was needed. After extending + being ordered to advance over rise + take up position, about ½ doz Turks rifles opened on them just as they got over rise, they all bolted back leaving about 9 of us behind which we found out about ¾ hour later, after crawling all over the place trying to connect up with them. When we did get back we found all the others had been in some time Except Capt. R. whom we found wandering about without one of his men, + M.D. came along with one man. Stopping in gully I called to these 2 last to come in several times but got no answer Except to hear bayonet + bolt worked + then voice ordering me to “Hands Up”. I dont know whether the man thought I was a Turk talking in English or what, out I have never of such an absurd occurrence before especially as I was only just outside our own trench.
The second night was much better carried out, things were explained + pointed out to us better + we knew our objective. Owing to very scrubby nature of country good formation could not be kept. Anyhow we got up close to trenches, being fired upon several times but after a while we got order to retire quietly as some one had passed word that Turks
were massing on our flank. Personally I think somebody saw hallucinations, anyhow it was another night wasted.
Last few days have been hot windy + extremely dusty days + the flies are awful. W.A. is not a patch on it. Enormous blowflies, green backs + common house flies are everywhere, first on putrid dung heaps, then most probably on you tucker in swarms, in your eyes, mouth, on noses, in fact everywhere they ought not to be. Then one can eat a meal in comfort, dust is everywhere, tea and jam get a scum on them, meal gets gritty. One can quite realise the probability of disease breaking out, of course there is as much sanitation as possible as this life will permit.
Wednesday 16th Things have been fairly quiet the last few days. We are all keenly awaiting to hear what Greece is going to do after the elections, it is popularly thought that if M. Venizelos + his party are returned that war will be declared. Of course the Queen being the German Emperor’s sister may have a lot to do with the matter.
Srgt. Major Mason + several of our Coy. who helped to form the 50 Guard to Gen Ian Hamilton have been away all this time only returning yesterday. Having been down to Cape Helles + seen the operations there, they say casualties there are enormous, the K. Army having about 18,000 alone.
There is a big hill down there named Achi Baba which they have been
trying to capture, it is the key to the whole position down there, but it seems practically impossible to take it as it is honeycombed with trenches + has ¼ mile wide of barbed wire round it which makes it practically impregnable.
They were also over on Islands for some time + saw many Turkish prisoners.
Some more of our wounded returned this morning, also Puckle who seems to have had a bad time with his hands. He has been at Cairo all the time.
Best of all we have Capt. Williams back with us, he has been in charge of Abassich Military Prison all this time. We are all very glad to see him back. Also 5th Reinforcements arrived this morning of which our Coy. got 35. This nearly brings our Coy. up to full number, of which only about 80 of old Coy. are left.
I am in my dugout outside lines at present instant + at time there is rather heavy artillery duel going on between our guns + enemies. One of our guns 50 yards away fires right over my dugout + rather shakes one up. Of course Shrapnel are bursting all around + I just heard one of 2nd Batn. fellows cry out having been hit.
Thursday 24th We now spend 48hrs in firing line, same in support + same outside working party.
God knows how long this will keep up, things are always being chopped + changed about + are never the same for a week at a time. Spent Sun.+ Mon. in support + had close shave from shell aimed at 8th Battery gun 20 yards behind, shell struck parapet of support trench bursting and covering me, in dugout in opposite wall, with shower of earth. If it had missed parapet it would just about have done for me. Next shot got gun slightly injuring one man. 2nd Batn. had one of its stunts on while we were in support one night, not having been warned we all jumped out of bunks when heard devastating fire opened, but when we saw flares sent up we understood what is was. Turks expended fair amount of ammunition in answering.
Two days in trenches uneventful. 6th Reinforcements arrived, several men + one young subaltern, Lieut. Franklin drafted to our Coy. Makes one feel that if one had stayed behind a little longer one may have had the chance of a [?? unknown word], at same time I am glad to say that I was one of the first to volunteer + have seen service right from the jump of Australian Active Service.
Received mail 22nd. One letter + papers from home, 1 from Miss Smithwick + 1 from Ben Bryant.
Wednesday midday came outside + went in working party. That night 36 of our platoon with N.C.O. officer went out at 9pm + acted as covering party to party digging new trench from No 9 sap. We had to crawl
over rise about 60 yards + take up position commanding view of country in front. I had charge of 12 men on left flank. Party being split up into 3 groups. We had to lie there on our stomachs until well after 3am (over 6 hours) + it is to be hoped that I won’t have another such night for some time to come. We had orders only to fire on large parties or if they attacked but had to leave individual snipers alone. Well there had been parties out two previous nights + it is concluded Turks knew we were there. Anyhow they began throwing hand grenades at my party on left. First lobbed amongst our feet, bounced to rear + did not explode, 2nd exploded 5 yards to rear and 3rd landed alongside Reed one of my men + exploded, knocking him unconscious by concussion, luckily hitting no others. Sent back and got stretcher bearers who removed him + who were fired upon by one of our sentry groups in post on sap as they did not answer when challenged.
Snipers came bang up against us not 10 yards away being seen by several of my men. There were 3 seen , of course there may have been more, we could hear them swishing quite plainly. Of course my party was too small to try + take any active action in capturing them + it would have brought more Turks down upon us. So there we lay with these men only a few yards in front of us + on tender hooks waiting
to see when next grenade would burst, not to mention the snippers shots zipping close over head + through the bushes. It was quite a relief when we got back. Slept till midday missing breakfast + dead to the worrying flies. At 12am our men were called on fatigue work without having had breakfast or lunch, much to everyone's disgust as we had been promised absolutely nothing to do until late afternoon.
French doing good work down South capturing 2 lines of trenches after three attacks. Turks are said to have lost 11,000 dead, 80,000 wounded + 20,000 sick since beginning of operations here.
<< Bardwell Diary - May 1915 - Bardwell Diary - July 1915 >>