It has been delightful to receive a visit from Lieut. Patrick Duff (RFA) on his safe return from the Gallipoli campaign. He is kindly allowing us to publish extracts from the diary he kept at the time.
The entries below cover the events from December 30th until January 9th, when he was evacuated.
Any starred space has been censored to meet the requirements of paragraph 453, King’s Regulations.
30/12/15. “I think there is very little doubt that we are going. I write this in the middle of a large expenditure of ammunition on what seems a useless target, just, I take it, to get rid of the stuff…
It is quite exciting and I have no sentimental objection to leaving Gallipoli, as the show is obviously a failure, and we shall see another war in a new country…
31/12/15. Ordered to remove two guns today; spent busy morning packing heavier kit and arranging about despatch of my two guns…
At W Beach delivered two guns, two G.S. wagons and four gharries with men’s kit and some of my own on lighters, and saw them safely off. Rather tired and sleepy as we are having pretty hard days and nights. Write this at 3 a.m. smoking a cigar instead of going to bed, feel absolutely dead tired in the mornings, but the coldness of the night keeps one going for the night work.
1/1/16. We rode into W Beach to learn how to blow up guns in case we had to abandon them..
Thank God we don’t evacuate every day of our lives; it is tiring, as one pulls about guns and heavy stuff in addition to getting no sleep.
General ******* sent us a wire this morning wishing us a ‘Happy and victorious New Year.’ A farcical epithet at a moment when we are in the act of sneaking away from a place we’ve held for eight months and in a deadly funk every minute that the Turk will spot it and jump on us. Took teams out at 11 p.m. and got to Clapham Junction in Krithia nullah about 12.30, having had to wait on Artillery Road owing to block of traffic. Was at W Beach at about 2 a.m., where I soon got rid of the guns. Back to bed about 3.30.
2/1/16. Am staying up for the purpose of seeing wagons loaded with oats, hay and our kit (We are all packed up, leaving out only shaving things and flea bags).
The ravine presents already the appearance of the abomination of evacuation standing where it ought not. All dug-outs have been left as they stood, but it is perceptible that the Peninsula is emptying.
3/1/16. We have now one gun, 58 men and all the horses. Probably I shall leave tomorrow night with our last gun…
4/1/16. 9.45 p.m. The wind is rising. We have got one gun and about 50 rounds of ammunition; if the wind continues we can’t get away. It is beginning to howl like the devil outside. I wonder –
5/1/16. The beach is in a state of disorder; I noticed that last night they had embarked nothing as there was a long train of 18 pounders waiting to go off…. All the ordnance tents were turned inside out, piles of stuff lying about in confusion… There was every kind of thing there if one could only have carried it away. Rather pathetic. Everything is going to be piled up on the edge of the cliff and to be blown to blazes by the Navy the morning after we leave….
Tonight the wind has gone, so that we may be able to get away. The storms here generally last at least three days, so it is nothing short of providential.
6/1/16. Rode out on my little horse with the gun about 8, and thought how I should follow the dim roads of Gallipoli by night no more. Some of the more recent arrivals hail the departure with delight; but we who have been here since the very beginning find it hard to leave the place. One knows it more intimately than any spot on earth, having moved about on it at all hours of the night, and dug ourselves into it in every direction.
Frightful crush on the beach. I managed to get a move on and presently brought my gun to the pier. Shells were dropping on the other side of the beach, but nothing close to us. The horses were unhooked and sent away; my saddle was taken off my little horse and put on the limber and off he went in the dark…. Got out to a ship and had the gun and limber on it by about 5 a.m., and so now I write this sitting on the floor of a cabin, feeling the wiggle of the screw and beginning to realise that, for the time being, I have saved my soul alive.
7/1/16. I have left nothing in Helles, only my little horse, which will be shot. I told ***** to take off a shoe for me.
Started back to Helles about 5… I worked in the hold until about 4 a.m. getting stuff on board; but got some sleep in the night. Yesterday I felt quite sick with sleepiness. Still calm, perhaps we shall be able to get some horses off yet.
8/1/16. Everyone thinks this is ‘Z’ night, when everyone comes off. Wish I were on shore.
About 4 a.m. the Chief woke me and said, ‘the bonfires are lit.’ I went on deck; on W beach about eight great fires were burning and the blaze lighted up the whole place. *********
****** suddenly a terrific explosion came ******* throwing up the earth in the shape of a huge fan about 100 feet into the air. Shortly after came another awful burst, hiding the whole beach behind the falling debris and smoke. Flaming splinters seemed to be flying about everywhere, some falling in the sea.
There was another fire on V beach, and I could see the huge wall of the castle of Sedd-ul-bahr in the glare (reminded me rather of Virgil’s description of the fall of Troy when the forms of the malignant gods loomed out above the smoking walls). Just around the corner from W beach another heap ************* was ablaze, and there was a fire on Gully beach. For an hour or more I stood watching the flames; the Turks were at first firing shrapnel into the middle of the beach, thinking they had set fire to something and that they would catch those who were putting it out. About 5 a.m. they seemed to realise we were gone, as they started shelling out to sea among the ships.
About 5.30 we began to move slowly away and the fires grew smaller in the distance. So we left W beach, looking likes the gates of hell, as it was when we first came there….
This is the end of the Expedition which was to have opened the Dardanelles, filled up Russia with supplies, and as we fondly hoped, advanced in rear of the Austro-Germans along the Danube. How far the frightful waste of men and materials will affect England’s fortunes one can’t tell, and just now it is hard to take a dispassionate view; but, results apart, I cannot think there is any enterprise comparable to this, except the Athenian Expedition to Sicily, which started with the same high hopes and ended…****************”
5 thoughts on “March 1st 1916”
What a gripping account of evacuating the Dardanelles amidst bombing, flames and darkness. Ruminating over the fate of the horses is a poignant touch.
It is a peculiarly English thing (perhaps) that we worry more about the horse than the rider….! (Certainly amongst the hunting fraternity).