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Diary of Signaller Ellis Silas – diary extract : May 1915
‘At the Water hole’, from Silas' book Crusading at Anzac
We are relieved from the firing line – the battle still raging; every nerve strained. Australians have done splendidly, holding a very difficult position; have been much troubled with snipers. Am glad I have done my duty. First wash for a week – go down to the Water Hole, which is always covered by Turkish snipers – it was safer in the trenches than here – all around this spot are dead and wounded who have been hit when dodging round this corner; however, one must drink, even if the price be Death. Make dug-outs in our rest camps, but men are continually caught by the snipers. Many are commencing to suffer from dysentery, though the spirit of the men is splendid, always ready for a joke.
Signaller Walker just hit in the mouth – we considered we were out of range in our dug-out but the snipers are everywhere. Sergeant of the machine gun is writing a very amusing diary, full of humour; I wish I had his spirit.
In the dug-out just above me a poor chap is lying very ill but has asked me to say nothing to the medical officer as he does not want to get sent away in the middle of the fun, as he calls it. Of such stuff are soldiers made – I think if I were in his place I’d be glad of an excuse to get out of this Hell, though I don’t think I should ever have forgiven myself if I had not come. I hear that to-morrow we are going to make a charge – the Turks are cutting our supplies off; the situation is severely critical. To read this in a newspaper makes an item of passing interest; to experience it is something quite different – if we are up against it, please God I may die in the same spirit that I know my comrades will display, for they know not defeat.

‘The Snipers’ from Silas' book, Crusading at Anzac
Our supplies are getting cut off – Turks have complete command of the roads through which we have to bring them – tonight we are to take the Ridge. I wonder how I shall get on in a charge, for I have not the least idea how to use a bayonet; even if I had, I should not be able to do so, the thing is too revolting – I can only hope that I get shot – why did they not let me do the RAMC work? I have told the authorities that be often enough that I cannot kill. One poor chap in a dug-out close to us was killed while preparing his meal; he has been lying there for two days – his mess tin full of tea, the charred remains of the fire he was cooking by, a few biscuits scattered about, his pipe by his side – we cannot bury him on account of the snipers; it seems no place is safe from them – efforts are being made to clear them out but it is a difficult job as we cannot spare the men to do it. We are very hard pressed – we were to have had four days’ rest from the firing line but now the situation is so critical that at all costs the enemy must be shifted from the Ridge. Colonel Pope has aged much during these first terrible days.
8.30 pm. In half an hour we have to move off for the charge. Close to where we have fallen in, enemy snipers are putting in pretty hot work. I had to go up the road with a message; on the way back apparently I took to the wrong side – Captain Margolin called out to me:
‘Keep to the right; don’t you know which is the right side? Run for it, you _ _ _ _ fool!’
Then all the men called for me to run for it – ‘the snipers will get you’ – however, I don’t think I cared much whether they did or not – if I am to get hit nothing can stop it; I am tired of never being able to move about with freedom, I’d much rather take my chance – running does not appeal to me; too much like hard work.
I have just seen a plucky incident. Some ammunition mules came down this exposed bend; the snipers immediately got on to them, one poor brute was severely wounded; the sight of the blood gushing from the tortured brute quite unnerved me – the rest of the train commenced to break away – despite the great danger, two men rushed forward and caught hold of the startled animals, thus preventing a stampede which, in the confined space of a narrow road – if such it could be called – might have caused an impasse, and this, under the existing conditions, would have been highly dangerous.
The shrapnel is now ever in the sky, it is as much a part of the landscape as the clouds. At 6p.m. we march off. Half way up to the Hill which we are to take we had a rest for tea, biscuits, bully beef, cheese and jam – I went down to a water hole in a gully; it was very peaceful down there, the sun slanting through the thick foliage; it was difficult to realize that all around us was such Hell. Lieutenant Geddes was also there – a man whom I remember, at our concerts, used to sing very charmingly – poor chap, this was his last night in this world. Just as the sun was setting, throwing its rich colour o’er all the landscape, we formed up for the final march off for the attack – it was difficult going, crawling through the gully which skirted the foot of the hill we were to attack. We were to attack at 7 sharp, prior to which our artillery was to support us – our Battalion, No 6 Platoon supported by the 15th Battalion on the right, 13th on the left. Lieutenant Geddes looked at his watch: ‘It is 7 o’clock, Lads,’ he said, ‘Come on, lads, at ’em.’
Up we rushed – God, it was frightful – the screams of the wounded, bursting of the shells, and the ear-splitting crackling of the rifles. In a very few minutes the gully at the foot of the hill was filled with dead and wounded – these poor lumps of clay had once been my comrades, men I had worked and smoked and laughed and joked with – oh God, the pity of it. It rained men in this gully; all round could be seen the sparks where the bullets were striking. Amidst this Hell of writhing, mangled men and hail of bullets, a General was walking about:
‘Your puttee’s undone, young man,’ he said.
‘Yes Sir, that’s all right,’ I replied, ‘I’ll soon fix that up, but for God’s sake, take cover; you’ll be killed.’
Cigarette card from Wills cigarette packet c. 1915 – Hot Trench Work in Gallipoli. [State Library of NSW, ML Safe 1/145]
Every second I expected to see him hit, but not until he had done up my puttee for me would he move – then, with an amused chuckle, he passed his hand over the top of his cap, at the same time remarking, ‘That was a pretty near thing’. A bullet had singed the top of his cap. On my way up the hill I much wondered what I would do when I got to the top – the Corporal of our signallers ordered all the signalers to the rear; this struck me as being curious, I asked him whose orders – he said, ‘Lieutenant Southern’ – so I went down the gully to see what I could do for some of the wounded. It was impossible to walk between them, they were in such heaps. One sergeant, Caldewell, came tearing along, badly wounded but full of spirits – ‘My!’ he said, ‘but they’re willing up there’. Another poor fellow, his right hand shot away, called out, ‘God, but I’ve done my duty. Is that you, Silas old chap; I’ve done my duty, haven’t I?’ I was wondering what our officers were doing for signallers, so determined the reach for them, orders or otherwise – my nerves were quite gone, but still I determined to make the effort.
On my way up the hill, a large number of men were lying flat on its face – it was a screen of lead right across. Walker, another signaler, made every effort to reach the top – meanwhile the men were yelling to us to lie flat – we continued our way a little further until we saw the impossibility of our task, so we tried to dig ourselves in, but there was little room for anyone. Our artillery was firing into us as well – then came a cry from the top, ‘We must have ammunition’ – to run down the slope was instant death – there was no officer to give the order and, aware of the urgency of the case, I got up and tore down the hill, for being a signaller I felt it was my duty to take the risk, so I went down to Headquarters with the message. On my way down, in the gully, I came across the reinforcements coming up – one of the chaps said to me ‘Who are you? Where do you come from? What is your name?’, meanwhile drawing his bayonet – I had to answer pretty quickly, otherwise I could have had more steel than I wanted. I then came across Lieutenant Braishaw lying wounded: ‘Who are you?’ I said.
‘Don’t you know me, Silas?’ he replied.
‘What is the password?’ was my next remark.
‘Gabba Gabba – don’t you remember, I came over in the same ship with you from Melbourne?’
Then I remembered him – perhaps it was foolish of me, but the Turks had played so many clever tricks that it was best to play for safety. I covered him up with some bushes. ‘Can’t you help me to the rear now?’ he said, a natural enough question, as we might not be able to hold the ridge and the wounded would fall into the hands of the Turks:
‘No sir,’ I replied, ‘I will tell the stretcher bearers to look out for you but I must take the message about the ammunition; it is very urgent.’
I continued on my way – the gullies were choked with wounded; all along the route I kept coming across poor shattered things crawling along in their agony, but I could not stop to help them. Some distance from Headquarters I came across a pile of ammunition boxes – these should have been brought up by reinforcements, but by some error this was not done – I went to Headquarters with my message, where I arrived in a state of collapse – the horrors of this night have been too much for me, I cannot get used to the frightful sights with which I am always surrounded.
Dawn. Oh God, only 250 left of our battalion – there has been a ceaseless stream of wounded, many cases have died on the way down, until in most places the narrow pass is so cumbered with dead and badly wounded waiting for the stretchers that it is becoming impassable – along the edge, bodies are hanging in all sorts of grotesque and apparently impossible attitudes. Seeing those fine stalwart men going up the gully to reinforce and shortly returning, frightfully maimed and covered in blood – I don’t think I shall ever be able to forget this; it’s horrible. One poor fellow, a New Zealander, came tearing past smothered with blood and quite delirious, kissing everyone he passed, upon whom he left splashes of blood. Some come along gasping out their lives and then remain silent for ever. I don’t think we can hold the Ridge much longer – to complicate matters, our own guns are firing into us. Will the stream of wounded never cease? It is now nearly midday and still they keep pouring down – Marines, some of them mere boys, and New Zealanders are supporting us, but keep getting frightfully cut up. I am told to go and rest, which I do upon a hill held by the Marines. I lie down in the sun for a bit, but sleep I cannot.

‘Stretcher Bearers’ from Silas' book, Crusading at Anzac
Rest day – go to a new Rest Camp a little more sheltered from the snipers – expected to be away from the trenches a few days, but at 6.30 p.m. have to return – we are very short of men. Enemy has been busy all night with bombs through which we are losing many men – when I see the men going into the trenches I often wonder how many are coming out – a few minutes after they have been in there is usually a scream, then the awful cry ‘Stretcher bearers’, and then the mangled heap is brought out. The wounded lying in the clean wards of a hospital, with spotless bandages round their wounds, is one thing; but to see them lying there covered with mud from the trenches, the blood oozing through their clothes, and, more often than not, unrecognisable., is quite another. In one portion of the trenches are the remains of what had once been a human being – every time I go through that section of the trenches, which are very narrow, I have to climb over this maimed corpse – there is not the time to bury him. We are putting up wire netting as protection from the bombs – we have very few bombs with which to return the enemy’s continued onslaughts with this hideous weapon. The low thud of their explosion fills me with horror, as I can always picture the result; though God knows I am seeing quite enough horrors without the addition of my terrible imagination. All night the Turks have been sending up star-shells – any moment they may rush us – if they make a determined effort, it’s finish.
It has been a very trying night - we are anxiously scanning the horizon for a sight of the transports which are to bring us the much-needed reinforcements – we are only just ‘hanging on’ – please God they arrive in time. To-day went down to Headquarters with a message to Officer in charge of the Engineers RE building up the trenches at Quinn’s Post, the position we are at present holding – I am getting so weak that I have to sit down and rest every few yards – one gap which was exposed to snipers I was told to run across but hadn’t strength to do it; I had to take my time and my chance of being picked off. This doesn’t worry me much, I think I am about done – thank God men of my temperament are few and far between – I am quite satisfied that I’ll never make a soldier; a thousand pities to have been born an artist at a time like this – I do wish I could take War in the same spirit with which my comrades face its horrors.
Cigarette card from Wills cigarette packet c. 1915 – Australian Bomb Throwers at Work [State Library of NSW, ML Safe 1/145]
Relieved from the trenches – back to the Rest Camp. I set to work to make a dug-out, but can only do very little at a time. We are handed out cigarettes, some of which are quite mouldy, though I smoke them as smoking only keeps me going now.
Little sleep – I dread being asleep more than awake as my dreams are so frightful. I am making no effort to keep a concise diary, I can only hope that I shall be able to forget it all. Amuse myself designing stained glass windows – it’s awful having no reading matter; am reduced to reading labels on jam tins. All last night the Turks have been bombarding heavily with shrapnel; a quite unusual occurrence, as they never used to commence before dawn.
Our rations are excellent – lard, jam, potatoes, cheese, biscuits, ham and bacon – plentiful supply of all – we concocted many strange and weird dishes, making rather excellent little jam tarts by first soaking biscuits in water, baking them on the embers, and then, when the biscuits are nearly brown, adding the jam. Also make little stews – cutting up the bacon and the potatoes, stewing them together, when done adding a little cheese – a dish fit for a King, or at least so it seems here. This is the first quiet day we have had that is quiet for this particular part of the globe. Up to date we have slept in great coats but now have managed to get hold of blankets; altogether very comfortable – it is cold at night but fine in the day time – fortunately have had no rain.
Have been delirious all night, my nerves have quite gone to pieces – go down to the sea for a dip; this is certainly a most unique experience – how delightful it is to be immersed in the sea after not having had a decent wash for about three weeks. We hear the Turk’s gun from Gaba Tepe, then, ‘Shell oh!’ – out we all scamper like a lot of naughty schoolboys – we take cover from anything on the beach that affords shelter. Then, after the shell has burst, back we go into the sea – ‘Shell oh!’ – this time we were nearly caught, for two or three shell came sliding through the air and burst quite close to us – however, we are determined not to be done out of our swim, so back into the water we go. The sea is a lovely colour. As I look out at the ships in the Bay it brings back to my memory my many sketching expeditions in that dear country far across the sea where it is happiness and sunshine, where Death is not ever waiting to reap, in so hideous a manner, the harvest that has been allotted him.

Detail from ‘Bathing under Shell Fire’ from Silas' book, Crusading at Anzac
10 MAY
Delirious again last night. ‘Stand to arms’ – B Company will advance. Just before dawn every morning we had to ‘stand to arms’ in readiness for a probable attack – it was all very eerier, dreary and cold in the thick morning mists – men would appear and disappear like phantoms. To-day we are in for a hot time; I am feeling very weak and helpless – I have been taking morphine, given me by the MO – I can now neither eat nor sleep. I wonder how many of us will be left by sunset – I do hope dear old Margy
(Captain Margolin ) won’t get killed; he is such a fine fellow and brave beyond compare, though it’s hard to say who isn’t – all the lads are splendid! To-night the Light Horse are to take a trench facing Quinn’s Post – their bombs have been giving us a hot time, causing many casualties – we hear the Turks are massing, so it’s pretty certain there’s going to be something doing – we are to be the supports though, if we go into it, what is left of the 16th Battalion will be wiped out completely. What a frightful night – the trench has been taken, and alas! our lads have gone into it. Lieutenant Curlewis, Margolin’s great chum, has finished with the troubles of the world.
After the trench was captured, the forty yards of flat ground between this, our new front, and our own trenches, is being swept by the enemy’s fire, which is enfilading us. We have been sent into the firing line, but there is not room for us in the trenches – Margolin is frightfully upset:
‘My poor lads,’ he said, ‘there will be none of them left; I do wish I could get them out’.
I asked Margolin ‘Can I take a message for him?’
So off I go to find the remains of our battalion. I leap over the parapet of our old trenches and dash across this lead-swept plateau, hoping that I shall not stumble over any of the decomposed bodies of any of the dead Turks which have been lying there for some two weeks. I do not know where our men are, except that they are somewhere in front – I find the Officer of the 15th Battalion – he says he does not know. There is not room for me to go along inside the trench, so I keep to the outside until at last I find Lieutenant Harwood who, when he sees me, exclaims:
‘Silas this is fine. I wouldn’t be elsewhere for a thousand pounds; tell Captain Margolin we are being enfiladed’.
‘What shall I do?’
‘Explain to him exactly our condition’.
Back I go across this lead-swept plateau with my message – altogether I had to go six times across this place. When I reached Margy, he said:
‘Tell Harwood to bring the lads back, they are not wanted there and there isn’t room for them; I don’t want to lose my boys for nothing’.
So back I had to go again. This time could not find Harwood, so then had to find where the boys were on my own and pass the word for the 16th Battalion only to retire. One rather amusing incident – while trying to get into the trench it didn’t seem possible to do so without jumping on somebody’s head; one of the chaps exclaimed to me:
‘Come off the skyline, you _ _ _ _ _ fool’.
‘I will,’ I replied, ‘as soon as I can find space’. ‘Jump in anywhere,’ he answered back, ‘never mind if you do hit anybody, you’re not in a drawing room’.
It certainly did seem ridiculous, standing on ceremony in a time like this, though I don’t suppose anything will alter this peculiar side of my nature. They are now digging a connecting trench between our new front and our old trenches – we have had to retire, the Turks are too strong for us.
11 MAY
Dawn. The roll is called – how heart-breaking it is – name after name is called; the reply a deep silence which can be felt, despite the noise of the incessant crackling of rifles and screaming of shrapnel – there are few of us left to answer to our names – just a thin line of weary, ashen-faced men; behind us a mass of silent forms, once our comrades – there they have been for some days, we have not had the time to bury them. We have been kept at bay by a large body of Turks, infinitely superior to us in numbers and equipment; their machine guns are a much better class than ours. An incident typical of the sang froid of our leaders has just occurred; some Staff Officers had just come up to inspect some trenches when an enemy shrapnel burst over their heads – one turned round and remarked in his ‘Varsity’ drawl, which wants to be heard to be fully appreciated, ‘I suppose it’s from Gaba Tepe.’
Return to Rest Camp. I make a sketch of the position for (I think ) General Birdwood.
6 p.m. return to trenches. Turks bombing heavily – we have had a spot of rain which has made it extremely difficult to gain a foothold. I asked Captain Margolin if he could spare a little of his jam:
‘It is not my jam,’ he exclaimed, ‘it is our jam; help yourselves.’
The stench from the corpses is appalling – I offer Captain Margolin a cigarette; though he doesn’t smoke I think he ought to try:
‘ll right Silas,’ he said, ‘I’ll see how I get on.’ He is frightfully cut up over the loss of Curlewis.
‘Silas, I can hear Curly speaking,’ he remarked.

Portrait of Captain Gordon Curlewis of the 16th Battalion, killed in action at Gallipoli on 2nd May 1915. [AWM H06122]
Read about he and his brothers on the Curlewis Brothers page
We are served with rum, Mconichie rations, which are very good, ham and hot tea – I can eat nothing myself – ‘You must try,’ said Margy. Our periscopes are very rough and ready contrivances which make an easy mark for the Turks. Rather an amusing incident just occurred. It was a lovely evening – when going through a connecting trench, I got up and looked over at a distant landscape which was a very fine colour, gloriously unconscious of the fact that just in front of me were the enemy trenches! I was suddenly pulled down and asked if I’m tired of life. (Within a few yards of this same spot) One of our officers, Lieut. Cretchman, goes past a hole in our trenches, something less than a foot wide, and gets killed – such are the chances of War.
(Night of the 9th.) Captain Townsend said, ‘Come on lads, I’ll show you something to do.’ And with a handful of men, during the charge that night, tried to take one of the strongest trenches in this section and, though frightfully wounded, I am told sill urged the lads on.
We can still see the bodies lying on the Ridge where they fell the night of 2 May and 3 May.
12 MAY
Position good, though all men very tired – considering the amount of shrapnel the Turks have poured into us, our casualties might have been much heavier.
13 MAY
Relieved from trenches. Wash out some underclothing and hunt for ‘grey-backs’ which are now prevalent everywhere. Just as Colonel Pope was coming out of the trenches he commenced to scratch himself – a roar immediately went up from the lads, who exclaimed ‘The Colonel’s got one’. Great excitement – have just been presented with half a loaf of bread – what exactly this means, only those who have been without one can fully appreciate. Some papers at last, and mail from home, among which a copy of London Opinion – an article by Ashley Sterne made me laugh; the first time I have really done so for nearly two months. The letters from home make me think a lot; this terrible life will make me very contented with the ordinary conditions of life. For my part, all I desire is a little studio and the wherewithal for bread and butter.
Our first night with blankets – am delirious again, which must be rather trying for my companions sleeping in the same dug-out with me, but they assure me it doesn’t worry them at all. Very nice fellows, but rough; if only one of them had a greater comprehension of the right and proper place to use the past and present tense.
14 MAY
Go down to the MO for more morphine – he suggests my going to the rear where the noise is less, but when I look round and see the other chaps so full of good spirits and ready to hang on to the last, I feel that I cannot do less than they, so determine to stick it as long as I possibly can. We are hoping to be sent back to Lemnos to reorganise, as our battalion is no more.
Cigarette card from Wills cigarette packet c. 1915 [State Library of NSW, ML Safe 1/145]
15 MAY
‘Stand to Arms!’ – Nothing doing. Return to Quinn’s Post. Hell of a noise on the right, though quiet where we are. ‘Lizzie’ has not been coughing latterly, hear she has been sent home for repairs, but fear she has been sunk with the Majestic – how awful, for she has been one of our strongest supports during these terrible days.
16 MAY
Sunday. Suppose some more Hell again – all our biggest engagements have taken place on that day. I think if I am here much longer my reason will go – I do not seem to be able to get a grip on myself and feel utterly crushed and unmanned, though I shall try and stick it to the last. In my heart I know I am done – it would be too ghastly to bungle a message and perhaps cause the loss of lives of many of these brave fellows. I think perhaps, now that I am no use as a fighting unit, the wiser thing would be to get away for a little while – I do wish I could get wounded so that the matter could be decided for me.
17 MAY
I was much worse last night – am told that I was quite off my head. Am told to go down immediately to the MO but will not do so until our battalion is relieved which will be in a few hours. See the MO who tells me that I had better go away for a week or two. I say good-bye to Colonel Pope, who says:
‘I am sorry you are going, Silas, you have done some valuable work for us.’
When I tell Margolin I am going he exclaims, ‘Yes, Silas old chap, it’s about time too, you’re not cut out for this sort of thing; I hope you will get into the A.M.C. as you always wanted to do’.
I was asked to leave what underclothing I had, also equipment etc, which later I was very glad to do. On the way down to the Clearing Hospital there was a marked difference in the aspect off the landscape – where before there was nothing more than a track exposed to the enemy’s fire and the deadly aim of the snipers, were now roads, if such they could be called, in parts cut to a depth of ten or twelve feet – when one considers how few men we have, how hard pressed, these roads are really a remarkable piece of work. I enquired my way at a hospital – a medical officer said to me, ‘Hallo, are you from West Australia? I am Dr Quinn’. I was glad to meet this man as he was a friend of my great chum Dr J F Gordon of Perth, West Australia.
After the incessant roar of the firing line, it seemed comparatively quiet at this spot. It is the end of a glorious afternoon – all the landscape is tinged with the warm glow of the sun – in the distance the blue ocean sparkling like a jewel. Up the narrow winding path with its border of sad little mounds, one of which may be my lot before I can get to the Hospital Ship (we are always under the enemy’s fire), placidly come some Indians with ammunition mules. It seems more like a scene from a play than one of the most tragic dramas in the world’s history. I am not left long in doubt as to the reality of it all. A buzzing as of a huge bee – a flash of yellow flame – on the ground a mangled heap from which slowly trickles a dull red stream. Far away across the sapphire ocean just a few more will be waiting in vain for the return of their loved ones.
‘Boarding the Hospital Ship’ from Silas' book, Crusading at Anzac
I reach the clearing station – it presents a scene of well-ordered confusion; everywhere on the narrow beach are numbers of wounded awaiting their removal to the Hospital Ship. This cannot be carried out until well after sundown, for the enemy is sending a continuous rain of shells in this direction. Ere our transfer to the boats we each have a label pinned on us stating the nature of our wound. Many are gasping out their lives before they can be transferred to the boats. We are put into the boats and are towed away to the Hospital Ships – we are towed from ship to ship; always the same reply, ‘Full up’ – eventually we manage to get abroad one. The cot cases were hoisted on board by derricks. The sea is fairly smooth, which is fortunate – a sailor tells me during the choppy seas of the last few days the wounded suffered terribly when being put aboard the Hospital Ship. Even right out here an occasional shell comes buzzing through the air and drops close alongside – it would be really rough luck to get hit so far away from the firing line after having been in such thick scrimmages. The ship I am on at present is the Sudan, a Castle Liner which is being used as a Naval Hospital Ship.
18 MAY
Am transferred to the Galeka, another Castle Liner. This is not a proper hospital ship, there is only accommodation for 150 wounded – we have on board some 500 or 600, many very terrible cases, and the filth is awful. I request to be put on as orderly, for though I am weak with fever and am only delirious at night, at least I have the use of my limbs.
19 MAY
Am on duty from 6 am till 11 pm. snatching food when I can get it, which at any time I do not feel the need of. There is practically no nourishment for the patients; very little bread, the majority have to eat the hard ship’s biscuits; jam, occasionally a little butter, very little milk – which is tinned – occasionally baron-tinned beef and a sort of cornflour. I have been watching two important brain cases – one man with a large portion of his brain exposed; the MO has little hope for him but is going to give him a fighting chance.
20 MAY
I am glad to say I have got my two patients up on deck; the atmosphere down there is simply frightful and every thing filthy. One of my cases is a man called Dench, he has been shot in the head and is both deaf and dumb.
21 MAY
In the cabin next to where are my two patients is a wounded Turk shot in the lungs – it is truly heart-breaking to see him gasping out his life and unable to do anything for him.
22 MAY
On deck 6.30 am. Patients are lying here just as they were when they left the trenches, with all the filthy and blood-soaked clothes still upon them. I must get them washed somehow, who don’t seem to have thought this was necessary, to discover all the basins they can and get to work washing the patients.
I take one of my patients, Miller. To the operating theatre and help with the operation.
Dr Fiaschi Junior is the MO in charge. I nearly faint through weakness and dread shaking the surgeon’s hand while he is operating on this very dangerous case. Dr Fiaschi tells me that if this operation was being performed in a London hospital, it would have been considered truly marvellous.
Dench is now able to walk about but is heart broken at losing his speech and hearing – this he writes on a piece of paper and shows it to me. Another man, a handsome looking fellow, has lost his left leg up to the thigh; he tries to throw himself overboard – but, taking the patients generally, they are displaying wonderful attitude over their terrible sufferings. One man from Sydney, who has lost his right arm, is quite the merriest on the ship and seems thoroughly happy – a Turk wounded in the same manner does not display the same patience, though seeing he is a prisoner one must make allowances.
From now on my dates are uncertain as I commence to get considerably confused. We reach Lemnos where we hang about some days waiting to take on more wounded. This delay is awful; there are so many cases that cannot be treated until they get to hospital. The Turk who hitherto would not move without pain jumps off his mattress with considerable alacrity to have a look at Lemnos Harbour as we are leaving – this annoys me that he should have taken up so much attention while the services of the orderlies were required for worse cases. I go to the Fo’castle to get one of the seamen to take the big nails out of my boots. I was rather taken aback when this was done for me without me having to pay anything. I might add, the behaviours of officers and crew, including stewards etc., had been splendid; short of orderlies, after they had done their nautical duties which are strenuous enough, they did everything in their power to assist in nursing the wounded, taking but scant time for sleep or meals.
At last we can give the wounded some clean shirts, as some Red Cross stores have been opened up. One of my cases, a New Zealander, has turned a yellow ochre colour all over; I think he must be about finished up. Next day I go to see what I can do for him, which consists of covering him with a blanket (there is not a Union Jack). So has another noble spirit passed to the Unknown. One New Zealander received a whole batch of letters and is much envied by the rest of the patients. When going along the deck, a patient called out to me, ‘Have you got the sketch you made of me on the Ceramic?’ This may sound trivial to mention, but makes one feel glad that least some of one’s comrades are left.
Arrive at Alexandria. I wonder if I go into hospital here or Cairo – I hope it is the latter as I should like much to be there, as I have a number of friends made whilst training in Egypt. The order comes, walking cases, fall in – whether I am considered one of these I know not, all the same I follow them to the Hospital Train and get in. I shall always remember this delightful feeling of peace, to be lying here amidst the cleanliness of this carriage in the hospital train. Many of us are really too far gone to care much what happens, though for my part I am sufficiently conscious to appreciate my environment. The Indian orderlies greet us with a welcome smile, meanwhile handing us cigarettes – I cannot smoke mine, having lost all desire for anything. Later we are handed bread and butter – only those who have been without bread for some considerable period could fully appreciate what a luxury this was. I could eat nothing – to be in the train was all sufficient; now my duties in hospital ship are over and no further efforts are required of me, I am tumbling all to pieces.

‘Palace Hospital, Heliopolis’ from Silas' book, Crusading at Anzac
Reach Heliopolis. The train is met by motor ambulance and we are carried off to Palace Hospital. After the ceaseless thunder of guns, the agony, filth and desolation of the battlefield, it was indeed like Heaven to be tucked between clean sheets in the silence of this ward – the softly shaded lights, the Sisters gliding noiselessly about ministering to our many wants, the Eastern architecture and decoration, and, half lost in the dim shadows above, gold-beaten brass lamps of exquisite workmanship: without, a purple sky of an Egyptian night; all helped to give a sense of unreality. I half expected to find myself wafted away on a magic carpet.
The days have flown into months and here I am still in bed, and told that I was discovered in one of the corridors in my delirium, imagining myself signaling. Dr and Mrs Garavedien have been most kind to me, bringing me boxes of beautiful chocolate every other day. This is against the rules but no matter – the great thing is, don’t be found out. When one is confined to a space six feet by two, which said space is duly searched every day, to secret a box of chocolates from the evil eye of Matron and the little less supervision of the Sisters, is not an easy matter. Colonel Maudsley seemed to take a very kindly interest in me – probably he did so with all other patients, but it tickles my conceit to think that he had singled me out particularly when he introduced me to Lady Maxwell.
Up to date have received no letters from home and do not do so until they are sent through private means, as all military mails used to be held up. There is one patient who, in his delirium, is singing a series of comic songs, which is diving me mad, though to the other patients in the ward this causes considerable amusement. Now that I am a bit better I am able to put in my time reading and making studies. Am now on a chicken diet; what particular brand of chicken this is I know not, for they always arrive up with a number of feathers attached thereto; whether it is they are in such a hurry that they had not the time to complete plucking them, or that they had been kept so long that the feathers had had time to grow again, I know not – judging by the time it took me to get my fork into it I should think the latter was the case.
Here as elsewhere Death stalked – four of my comrades passed out within a few hours of each other – an inert mass covered with the Union Jack is borne away – thus, one by one, they passed into the Infinite, leaving behind a name that shall ring glorious.
As I look into the distant future when the sound of guns is but an echo of the past, in grand array shall I see the spirits of these my comrades marching past, who in greatness of their souls have handed to future generations a fuller, deeper meaning of the word Patriotism.
2010 Gallipoli and the Anzacs | Australians in war | World War 1

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