The Diary of an RAMC Lt - Suvla Bay 1915

#1
Today is the anniversary of the outbreak of War with Germany, 1914. At the time my Grandfather held a TA Commission as 2/Lt with 3rd Bn Monmouthshire Regt while living and practicing medicine in SW Cork - he was a GP. He was ordered by wire to join his unit in Abergavenny on 4 Aug 1914.

For the first few months of the War he was occupied with instruction as an Infantry Officer while his application to join the RAMC was considered. He was transferred to the RAMC in March 1915 and after a variety of courses was embarked on ship to the Dardenelles.

I will copy his daily diary entries here for the next month which cover his departure from Port Said (4 August 1915) to his evacuation from Suvla Bay (4 Sept 1915). There's an almost whimsical tone to many of the entries but also an insight into some of the events and conditions and the prevailing mindset... bear with me, it does get quite interesting!



Wednesday, August 4th, 1915. Port Said.

When I go on deck I am told the whole Division has assembled in the Harbour. Seven Troopships visible together with two Russian Cruisers, one English and one French. Shore leave granted from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. I go ashore. Port Said a decent little place full of British Officers. Returned to ship at 1 p.m. Watched some Arab conjurors on board after lunch. Very smart but with an inclination to swindle. Left Port Said at 6 p.m. We were second ship out of the canal and had a great send off from those on board a French Battleship at the mouth of the canal. All the men assembled on the deck of the Battleship, while the ship's band played "Tipperary". In fact "Tipperary" seems to be the National Anthem just now. It is played everywhere. Even the Arab street bards make a specialty of it. Our send off from Port Said was the heartiest we had since leaving England. We soon passed the leading ship and struck due North West. Twelve months today we mobilised.
 
#2
Looking forward to this one. My Great-Grandad served with the Royal Munster Fusiliers during the Dardenelles campaign and the British contribution is often overlooked and obscured by all the myth-making from some quarters. Almost half the allied dead were British or Irish.
 
#4
Thursday, August 5th 1915. At sea.

When daylight broke on us we were out of sight of all our sister ships. Early in the afternoon we slowed down apparently to wait for them, and as day waned one of them came into view behind us and to starboard. Lights out early and bed in the dark. A report of the ship's crew breaking in on the rum stores is current throughout the ship, and numerous guards are mounted for the night. I am awakened very early by Cory shouting that a scorpion was by his side and munching one of his biscuits. By the light of a match we located the Animal, but it got clean away and I am afraid poor Cory's sleep was very disturbed for the night.
 
#6
the British contribution is often overlooked and obscured by all the myth-making from some quarters. Almost half the allied dead were British or Irish.
Good point and one I was explaining to Mrs regular_imbiber last night,coincidentally.

The French also suffered heavy losses during this ill-fated campaign.

Like others, I'm also looking forward to following this thread.
 
#8
Thanks in advance for the insight.
 
#9
Yes - a really brilliant idea. BZ.

MIT - I don't want to spoil your enjoyment but the development isn't all you hoped for! Apparently we still come second...

The myth of Australian casualties at Gallipolli - it is alright Wedge35, your tact does you credit but we knew who you meant - has in many ways obscured the real value of the AIF contribution there and later in France. It is worth bearing in mind that the AIF lost 8709 killed at Gallipolli over eight and a half months. In the engagements at Pozieres and "Mucky Farm" on the Somme, the Australians suffered 23000 casualties in under two months. At Fromelles, topical point this, the AIF lost over 5,500 casualties in 24 hours. In 1916 a total of 40000 Australians were killed or wounded on the Western Front. That is 10% of all Australians who enlisted in WW1. One in ten Australian soldiers in WW1 were killed or wounded on the Western Front in 1916...sobering.
 
#10
Yes - a really brilliant idea. BZ.

MIT - I don't want to spoil your enjoyment but the development isn't all you hoped for! Apparently we still come second...

The myth of Australian casualties at Gallipolli - it is alright Wedge35, your tact does you credit but we knew who you meant - has in many ways obscured the real value of the AIF contribution there and later in France. It is worth bearing in mind that the AIF lost 8709 killed at Gallipolli over eight and a half months. In the engagements at Pozieres and "Mucky Farm" on the Somme, the Australians suffered 23000 casualties in under two months. At Fromelles, topical point this, the AIF lost over 5,500 casualties in 24 hours. In 1916 a total of 40000 Australians were killed or wounded on the Western Front. That is 10% of all Australians who enlisted in WW1. One in ten Australian soldiers in WW1 were killed or wounded on the Western Front in 1916...sobering.
No point in having a bet on the outcome then!

I think the most unfair (to the British) myth is that Anzac (let's not forget the Kiwis were there too) troops were sent because they were considered expendable by the British High Command.
Interestingly and to their credit, the Australians refused to execute their own, especially for cowardice or desertion, very forward thinking considering what is now known about PTSD.
 
#11
The initial landing force ORBAT at Suvla reflected the best of the K1 divisions. The performance of units like the Lancs Fusiliers - possibly one of the most gleaming examples of unit cohesion, commitment and both individual gallantry and corporate bravery in the history of British arms - underwrites that.

Interestingly George Lambert, the Australian war artist, post-war was instructed to paint Gallipolli scenes with the AIF troops wearing slouch hats. Yet most actually wore the same peaked caps as their UK contingent comrades.
 
#12
Thanks for starting this thread, looking forward with interest to see it develop.
 
#13
Whilst researching the family history,I came across my Grandfathers,brothers son,not sure what that makes him,on the CWGC site.

I picked him up,because of the his parents being mentioned,He was in the 6th Bn,South Lancashire Regt, they landed at Anzac Beach 4th August 1915,he was killed 5 days later on the 9th August 1915,aged 23.

Having obtained a copy of his Birth Certificate,I find that he was born in May 1898,which made him just over 17yrs old,when he died,and his name is inscribed on the Helles Mermorial.

It certainly makes you think.
 
#14
Friday, August 6th 1915. At Sea.

A lovely morning finds us cruising between the Isles of Greece. Byron's words return to one instinctively.

"The Isles of Greece, the Isles of Greece,
where burning Sapho loved and sung."

A view of the Islands does not impress one towards loving or singing. Where we see them they are bare, barren and uninhabited.
 
#16
The initial landing force ORBAT at Suvla reflected the best of the K1 divisions. The performance of units like the Lancs Fusiliers - possibly one of the most gleaming examples of unit cohesion, commitment and both individual gallantry and corporate bravery in the history of British arms - underwrites that.
Lancashire Fusiliers were in 86 Bde (the Fusilier Brigade), 29 Div, not a Kitchener Division. The "Immortal 29th" were regulars, in India at the outbreak of war, returned to the UK intended for the Western Front but then added to the Dardanelles force.

My paternal grandfather was in 2RF.

Team_SLAG,

Apologies for the hijack, I'm looking forward to the entries (partly for the above reason).
 
#17
My bad - the 29th "The Incomparables" was indeed one of three divisions formed in 1915 using garrison units recalled from around the Empire and replaced in situ by Territorials mainly. They really earned there corn in 1915 and 1916-1918. Their memorial is in Newfoundland Park on the Somme but there is also one to the division by the side of the A45.
 
#19
Saturday, August 7th 1915. Lemnos.

At 5 a.m. the ship's hooter gives a prolonged groan. All on board rush to the port holes to find that we are approaching the Island of Lemnos. The sky to the East is a brilliant purple, and the sea a gentle calm. Submarines, destroyers and battleships pass us to and fro. Gradually we near the entrance to the Harbour when an immensity of shipping displays itself to the view. We pass the boom and slowly enter the Harbour. Our surprise is great. It is one of the finest natural Harbours in the world and full of all sorts of sea craft. The "Wiltshire" direct from Alexandria has arrived before us. We drop anchor near her. To our left is rather a large village, probably Mudros, behind which two rocky promontaries rise majestically upwards. To our right is another village around which are many encampments. Some sheep graze on the land level near the sea, and a few farm houses dot the country around. As the eye wanders inland the land seems more barren, and little or no vegetation is apparent. The climate seems very equable, and a beautiful fresh breeze enervates our somewhat sluggish constitutions. We stay at anchor in harbour all day.
 
#20
Sunday, Aug 8th 15. Lemnos.

Aroused early (4.30 a.m.) by the tramp of feet around the deck. The men, by an early summons, are getting ready to disembark. Breakfast 6.45 and at 8.30 we weigh anchor and proceed out of harbour. Just at the outlet approaching on the high seas a Destroyer signals us to get back to Harbour, that submarines lay on our track. We return to Harbour and await a Destroyer escort, which arrives at 11 a.m. We then proceed on our way, each ship accompanied by a small destroyer. The lion and its cub, though the cub carried the elements of defence.

"And there lay before us the Island of Lemnos, barren, bare, and uninviting, the red dawn tinselling its jagged rocks with peaks of gold. Yet, what a volume of history could this Island unfold? What tales of blood and slaughter could these old rocks give up of the ancient days of Grecian glory and decay?"

At 2.20 p.m. the first sound of big gun firing becomes audible, and away to our right lay the warship and the peninsular, where the guns of these same warships pour forth death and destruction every minute of the day and night. The entrance to the Dardanelles is visible from our ship, and a Hospital ship stands some distance outside it at sea. The lighthouse is still intact, and the peninsula itself looks as calm as the moors of Devonport. Yet within that area now plainly visible to us, is being waged the most deadly battle in the history of the world. Achi Baba, the main bone of contention at present, is covered by a dark cloud, surely a precursor of its destiny, though God grant it a sunny morn when the British army takes possession of it. The cliffs of the peninsular on our side seem a great height and one wonders how ever human beings scaled them in face of such a deadly storm of shot and shell poured forth on them from the guns of the Turks. Here and there out at sea are the British warships, from each one of which is a flash visible every second as it discharges its deadly shells amongst the Turkish trenches.

From this scene our ship turns round to the left and enters a cosy harbour in the Island of Imbros. Slowly she steams past the boom that guards the harbour, and drops anchor by the side of a sister ship within the safety of the guns of the Fleet. As we lie at anchor the noise of the ship's engines does not disturb the hearing faculties and the continuous boom of the big guns is ever audible. One wonders what death each boom bursts forth! What wife is left to mourn a breadwinner, what sweetheart to mourn a lover and how many little children become fatherless withal? But it is war and such thoughts must not disturb the placid tenor of our way, and with somewhat unnatural equanimity we talk, we laugh, we play at cards within sound and sight of this great and horrible carnage.

It is Sunday afternoon. The heavens are wonderfully clear. The sun shines out in all its brilliance. The waters of our little harbour are calm and with somewhat of a loving touch each small wave kisses the sides of the many ships floating on its surface. All around us seems bright and gay. Men bellow to each other from their ships. "What lot are you?" and the answer is given back. "Sussex", "Welsh", etc., as each man shouts the name of his regt.

And all this safe in harbour, when out at sea, steering directly towards us is a large ship painted white, flying the emblem of mercy, the Red Cross of Geneva. Slowly she bears her freight of human maimed and crippled to the rest of the hospitals on the shores of the inlet. I wonder what is happening in many similar harbours in England this same Sunday afternoon. I daresay they make merry. And why should they not? The people of England are ever apt disciples of Omar Khayaam. And why should we not do likewise?


"Ah, make the most of what you've yet to spend
Before you too into the dust descend.
Dust to dust and under dust to lie,
Sans wine, sans song, sans singer and sans end."

There is no comfortable tea at 4 p.m. and soon after our ship weighs anchor and heads for the sea. A message has been sent to us to sail for the Bay of Suvla directly opposite on the mainland of the peninsular. There is much speculation on board as to whether we are making a new landing. Everyone seems to think that we shall soon be under shellfire and there is general excitement as we near the warships flashing forth their deadly shells. Nearer and nearer we get to the mainland and still no shellfire worries us. At 6 p.m. we have dinner and nearing 7 p.m. we drop inside another boom and drop our anchor within a few 100 yards of land. All around us are a number of warships, each one of them flashing fire at regular intervals. One of them is heavily bombarding a crest of hill about 3 miles inland, where, we learn later, a Turkish column was advancing and was annihilated. Steadily the evening closes on us and away to the West is the purple glow of the setting sun, slowly depriving us of the magic rays of its brilliance as it descends to open day to the peoples of other nations whose natural inclinations lead them not to to war and its horrors. After dark a number of us congregate in the Smoke room and quaff a parting glass together, the last for some time, perhaps the last for some of us. Still no-one is perturbed and the Smoke room of the "Huntsgreen" situate within range of the enemy's guns is no more animated than the Smoke rooms of the Savoy or the Ritz away in faraway London. At 10.30 p.m. the Infantry and Royal Engineers are ordered ashore and we are to remain on board. I retire to get what rest is possible in the midst of such a noisy din.
 

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