August 13th 1916

Edmund GayCaptain Edmund Gay (Norfolk Regiment) was declared missing a year ago.

The Daily Telegraph reported about ten days ago that our Government understands that there are only nineteen officers and 359 other ranks known still to be in Turkish hands as Prisoners of War.

With regards the 290 officers (amongst whom Edmund is numbered) and 9,700 other ranks still missing, they feel that there are no longer any grounds for hoping they might be prisoners,

“and therefore it was consequently decided that the missing officers and men not accounted for must be officially accepted as dead. Effect is being given to this decision after due consideration of the circumstances of each individual case.”

There has still been no official confirmation of his death given to the family however, and until such time we will continue to list him as “missing.”

* * * * * * *

Benham, FrankCaptain Frank Benham (RFA) was wounded by a German shell hitting his dug-out on August 5th. At the time he was in charge of a battery at Mametz Wood on the Somme.

On August 8th he was strong enough to be able to write to inform his wife of his situation and the matron on his ward has also written to say she hopes he will be strong enough to return to England shortly.

 

March 1st 1916

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.

Lieut. Pat Duff

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..

W_Beach_Helles_Gallipoli 2

Preparation for evacuation. W Beach – January 1916

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…****************”

February 5th 1916

We heard last month from Sub-Lieut. Dick Sergent (RNVR) on his escape from Gallipoli. We are now equally delighted to receive this letter from his brother Sous-Lieut. Noel Sergent (French Artillery) on the island of Mudros. He was amongst the final troops to leave, on January 8th.

Noel Sergent

Sous-Lieut. Noel Sergent

23/1/16. “Our battery was the last French battery to go off. They fired up to 5 in the evening, then at 7 the Captain, Lieutenant, another, myself and seven men remained at the guns. We rammed earth sacks down the mouths of the guns, then put 26 dynamite cartridges in each and a Cordon Bickford and more sacks. Then we got our packs and banged about with a sledge-hammer, put the breeches of the guns on the trucks and started off.

At the crossroads we met the 52nd division coming down quite noiselessly, in fours. This was the last division and that meant that if the Turks chose to attack they could simply come straight through, as our trenches were empty.

When we got to Sedd-ul-Behr we left our packs behind the Chateau d’Europe and went on to the water’s edge. Just then, as I was emptying the breech into the water, the horn announcing a flash from Asia sounded. That meant 40 seconds before the shell came along. We all got behind anything and the shot went just over our heads on to the quay by the ‘River Clyde’ and the bottom of the old shell went off into the sea. .

We have been badly bombed and shelled lately and the batteries up against us were getting really too numerous, so in one way it was time we went, but at the same time it is sickening to think that we have been under fire for six months and that the total result of our fighting is that we have got to go and leave our material and everything, especially some 100,000 dead, in the hands of the Turks.

It is a good thing anyway that England has at last realised her mistake and has been brave enough to own up to it.”

January 10th 1916

Over the past weeks we have been anxiously awaiting news from those of our old boys involved in the Gallipoli campaign.  We  can at least account for Capt. Geoffrey Smyth (6th Loyal North Lancs. Regiment), who wrote from on board the ‘Hunts Green’ (a captured German ship being used to evacuate his men) following the evacuation from the Anzac and Suvla bridgeheads, which took place on 18th/19th December.

GM Smyth

Capt. GM Smyth

22/12/15. “I suppose by the time you get this the evacuation of Suvla will be old news. I really believe we did deceive the enemy this time – anyway, about five divisions got away without leaving anyone behind; and in our brigade there wasn’t a casualty.

For two weeks before, all the spare equipment and baggage was sent away and also the postal service, hence the reason why no letter for a fortnight. I marched the last party but two of our battalion to the beach, starting at 8 p.m., the last party leaving the trenches at 1.30 a.m.

They say everything was normal up till the last. The night before, half the troops were evacuated, and all the last day the line was pretty thinly held. Everything was excellently planned and worked without a hitch…”

* * * * * * *

Sub-Lieut. Dick Sergent (RNVR) has also made a successful escape from Gallipoli and has written to provide further information as to how this was achieved with so few casualties:

Dick Sergent

2/1/16. “We are now in Imbros again after having left Anzac, the whole bunch of us. This is to let you know something of the way we did it… We got some wind of it about a week, or perhaps more, before the evacuation (we were instructed only to speak of it as ‘embarkation’).

Our men set some automatic rifles when they left, and some mines and barbed wire in the trenches. The rifles were managed by way of billy-cans on the triggers with water dripping into them so they went off when the cans were heavy enough; they were set to go off raggedly, as if we were firing normally, for about 1½ hours after our men had gone.

We were to have boarded the Colne, but she was not to be found, so we picked up the first destroyer we came across, the Basilisk.. I went up into the W/T cabin and put on a pair of phones to hear the stations at Suvla and Anzac give their ‘dismantling’ signals. We heard the two at Suvla do so, but not our own.

Finally we got a bunting signal that all stragglers etc had been picked up, including the last field hospital which was to have stayed on to look after the wounded in case we had to fight for it…

We had the supreme pleasure of seeing John Turk shelling our first line trenches at 6.30 a.m. at Suvla and Anzac, and the beach at Anzac also.”

 

 

October 29th 1915

It is good to learn that Major Charles Mayhew (RMLI) – whose father is the chaplain here at Wadham College – has received his copy of the school magazine safely, even though he is so far away in the Dardanelles:

Suvla Bay 5/10/15. “I have been reading with great interest the experiences of various ODs in the Great War, as set forth in the last copy of the Draconian and I feel I must congratulate the Skipper and say how great an honour I feel it is to have once been a member of the School that supplied the hero of quite one of the bravest deeds in the whole war. I refer of course to Jack Smyth…

I thought it might interest you to hear something of the Naval side of the Dardanelles campaign, as far as is possible…

The chief work of the Navy lies in making all arrangements for and superintending the landing of troops detailed for the operation and in covering the landing with their guns… After the landing has been effected, the next duty is to supervise the landing of various stores…

A secondary duty is to keep down the fire, as far as possible, of the Turkish guns whenever they start shelling the beaches or the transports and store-ships in the Bay. This in theory sounds fairly simple, as the ships’ guns easily outrange all the guns that can be brought against us, but their guns are all in such well concealed positions behind hills or other natural features, that it is only by the aid of observation officers in aeroplanes fitted with wireless, that we can be spotted on to them.

We usually get up a game of hockey on the quarterdeck in the evenings, which makes up in vigour what it lacks in science and observance of the rules, and causes more casualties among officers than all the shelling…

The other evening, just after dark, a tremendous bombardment started all round our lines and the sight of the shrapnel and star-shells bursting, with the noise of the continuous rattle of maxims and rifle firing, was most awe-inspiring and we thought that the Turks must be making a most determined night attack, but the real explanation was that our men in the trenches had just heard the good news from the Western Front, and a Scotch regiment started playing the bagpipes and cheering lustily, which so alarmed the Turks that they started all down the line, loosing off anything that came to hand.”

* * * * * * *

The last letter we received from Jack Smyth was at the end of September. He is now in Egypt and is enjoying a rather safer existence:

“The climate here is perfect and there is very good tennis and boating and bathing in the salt lakes, so that we have almost forgotten about the war…”

He tells us that is hoping to return to more active service before too long in France, or possibly in the Dardanelles.

 

October 4th 1915

We can now reveal that Noel Sergent is part of the 51e Batterie, 10e Artillerie, E.N.E. Secteur 194, Armee d’Orient and not far from where Pat Duff is stationed. Recently Noel was inspected by Sir Ian Hamilton, the Commander in Chief of our forces in Gallipoli:

Noel Sergent

Sous-Lieut JNB Sergent

“Sir Ian Hamilton came round the guns and spoke to me and said he had played golf at Valescure (Saint-Raphael, in France) and that the links were very bad, and then, just as he was going off, he turned round and asked me how long I thought the war was going to last. I wasn’t going to make an idiot of myself by making a wild guess, so I said we have had so many surprises that I couldn’t possibly tell. So he told me that in his opinion the war would last about another year, and that the Germans weren’t counting on having to go through another winter campaign, and that next spring something decisive would happen, and that decisive something would come from this side.

Pat Duff came and saw me the other day; he is very thin owing to a touch of dysentery, so I gave him the pomegranate skin which had just reached me. He brought me over papers – Sphere, Tatler etc and I was delighted to see him.

27/9/15. Yesterday I had the pleasantest morning I have had yet. I returned Pat Duff’s visit and, after about half-hour’s tramp, I came to a farm where I found some of my R.E. friends, who had been here but had moved up. I gave them some lemons I had brought in my pocket and then went Duff-wards.

I went up this ravine (from Gully Beach) for about ten minutes and came to a notice-board: 460 Battery Winter Quarters. I asked for Duff and was shown to the top of Gurkha Bluff. There I found him in his dug-out. He is so situated as to be able to see Imbros and Samothrace and the sea through the ravine; lucky devil! … The gun is a quite nice 4.2. I photoed it with Duff and friend standing by.”                         

 

September 15th

Basil Playne

Surgeon Basil Playne (RN, Royal Naval Division).

The London Gazette of September 13th lists Basil as having been awarded the DSO:

“For gallantry and good service during operations near Gaba Tepe from April 28th to May 1st, 1915. On several occasions he rushed across the open (the communication trench being incomplete) into the fire trenches and attended the seriously wounded, regardless of the severity of the enemy’s fire; on one occasion he carried a wounded officer on his back from the fire trench to the communication trench under heavy fire.

His conspicuous bravery not only inspired the stretcher bearers to perform fine work, but gave confidence and spirit to all ranks. He was again several times brought to notice for gallant deeds when attending the wounded on May 3rd and 4th.”