Short Description of Experiences in the Dardanelles
Rifleman A. J. Seabrook 3036 (No. 3 Hut)
29-7-15. We left Hatfield over a regiment strong arriving in Liverpool in the afternoon. Our route from the station (Lime Street) to the docks were crowded with people who gave us a tremendous reception. The women and children carried our kitbags and brought out tea etc.. On reaching the docks we at once boarded to “Aquitania” where already on board was most of the other regiments. Half the “East Anglian Division” sailed on her. Before settling down all rifles and helmets had to be stacked in racks after which we had our first meal since breakfast and turned in for the night.
- In morning we left dock and stood out in harbour to allow the
“Mauritania” to dock. During day lifebelts were issued to every man and we were told off for duties. I was put in the mess for the duration of the voyage. Late that night we sailed and by morning we were well on our way.
For a few days no land was seen and only other craft consisted of our escort of destroyers. On arriving near Gibralta our escort gradually dropped away. We passed through the Straits near the African shore without stopping. Now plenty of craft were to be seen – mostly trading coasting vessels. The weather was now getting very hot and we spent our spare time on deck basking in the sun. Our berths were too stuffy at nights so most of us slept either on the upper decks or in the corridors and passageways. We now passed some lovely islands off the African shore.
5-8-15 Arrived at Lemnos Is.. Here lay the Allied Fleets making a grand sight. Stopped here for four days and saw the 29th Division pass on their way to Suvla Bay.
- In afternoon commenced to transfer ammunition and baggage
from Aquitania to “Carron” and worked right through the night.
9-8-15. Steamed up to Mudros on “Carron.” We now heard the guns plainly. Slept that night on the boat.
- Transferred to lighters and landed in afternoon on Gallipoli.
Here were thousands on men and mules including the R.N.D. our own and also Indian Troops.
- The same evening we marched up into the hills where the first
troops were who landed there days previously. Slept that night in a gulley and I was on guard from 2 a.m. to 4 p.m.. As dawn came we found we had camped in the midst of the remains of a fierce fight as the unburied bodies shewed. It was our first taste of the horrors of war.
- Shelled and retired to base tired but no apparent result of
expedition. For the rest of the day and through the night we were unloading stores from the lighters.
12.8.15. Engaged in heavy fatigue work and bathing in spare time.
13.8.15. In the morning shell after shell was dropped on base. Many of the mules stampeded and several casualties in our own regiment. Left for the hills in afternoon and got our first real experience of bullets. Several casualties resulted including Sgt. Gardiner of my own platoon who was hit in the head.
14-8-15 In the morning we made an excursion through One Tree Gully. On reaching our position we dug ourselves in but was so heavily shelled we returned to base. A few casualties. Berg in my platoon wounded in the head.
In the afternoon we fell in again for as we thought a small fatigue job but were marched up to One Tree Gully where we lied down until it became dark. We then marched in single file over the crest of the hill into the valley which separated us from the Turks positions.
Our duty now was to dig a line of trenches in this advanced position to make a turning or flanking movement. As soon as we commenced digging a hail of bullets were discharged at us but with little damage as we took cover behind large boulders and rocks, which abounded. At 12 o’clock midnight we had got down fairly deep by the aid of sandbags and boulders had erected a pretty solid barricade. The order now came to file off towards One Tree Gully. Twenty men including myself and my pal were detailed from their company to guard the trench until morning, and were told we should be relieved at 6 a.m. in the morning.
15/8/15 Sunday The Battle of Kidney Hill 6 a.m. came but no relief arrived. None of us had water left because we had no idea when starting from base that we would be away for any length of time, so drank it during the evening when digging. The sun got fiercer and fiercer as the morning advanced. About 12 midday the Bedfords advanced and told us we were enfillated (enfilade: outflank for the purpose of shooting down the defensive line) by a large force of Turks. They then went to our left and ran into very heavy fire. Dozens of wounded came walking and crawling back to beg us for water. Of course we could do nothing but bind some of them up. Our officer now decided to advance and join the Bedfords. We advanced over the hill, at once coming under heavy shrapnel and rifle fire. Now everything was in confusion; men dropped rapidly, but very little ground was gained. We took up positions behind large rocky boulders, and opened up independent fire. This went on for some hours until we were forced to retire. I got back into the gully where wounded were lying about in heaps. The Brigadier Major now appeared on the scene getting some men from and regiment he could; in all, he got a party of 150 men (of which I was one), which party he divided into two, then ordered us to take the hill, viz. Kidney Hill. We charged, with the bayonet, although many men dropped before we reached the Turks. When within 20 yards of them, most of them fled, while the rest were either killed or taken prisoners. Now, the biggest mistake of all the mistakes of that day took place. The rest of the division below, not realising that we had taken the Hill, commenced to fire on us, instead of advancing to reinforce us. The few of us that were left had to take what cover we could to escape the fire of our own comrades. Darkness now came and put an end to the firing on both sides. On counting up we found a dozen fellows (from the Bedfords chiefly) and a few from the 10th, 11th London Regiment and one officer (A Bedford Captain). For some long time we laid there with nerves up to the highest pitch. All round we could hear the wounded calling for water and stretcher bearers. Of course, no help could be given to these poor fellows, many of them lying for several days before expiring. We now cautiously felt our way along the Hill trusting to meet the remains of the other party which had advanced on the right; this we did, meeting a party of men under Capt. Clerk of our Regiment. We now decided to dig ourselves in, as deeply as possible, before dawn and hold the Hill and a few stragglers who now came in, had nearly 100 men in the trench which was less than a foot in depth. On looking round I was delighted to see my pal Ted Wilson, whom I had not seen since the beginning of the battle.
16.8.15 All day we lay flat on our faces gasping for water, while a terrific sun poured down. Several casualties occurred owing to shrapnel fire. In the evening we took up another position and sent a fatigue party down for water which was wanted badly. A few cans of water were brought back.
17.8.15. We spent the day the same way as the previous day. In the evening, we could hold out no longer, so gave the position up, filing off as silently as possible to One Tree Gully. In those few days we learnt the great value of water and also that a soldier’s bravery cannot surmount the blunders of the Headquarter Staff.
18.8.15. Decided to stay in One Tree Gully for a time, as original base was being heavily shelled. The day was spent on fatigue work, viz. in getting up water supplies. The roll was called this day to which nearly 400 answered out of the Regiment. In the evening a party went down to Suvla Bay where we had a dip by moonlight returning just before dawn with a supply of water from the “Old Turkish Well”. This dip was the 1st wash I had had since the previous Saturday morning.
19.8.15. Day engaged in fatigue duties. Nigh time carrying water to firing line.
20.8.15. Again engaged on fatigues. In the evening went on observation duty for 24 hours. The guard was fairly quiet except for snipers who worried us.
22.8.15 Left for old base at Suvla where we slept until daybreak.
23.8.15. In the morning marched with full pack and water can each across the hills to form a new base, and get a rest. Dug ourselves in near the sea-shore, but was shelled out, and moved higher up the hill. Had a good dip in the sea.
24.8.15. In afternoon I went to the old base for stores, and got caught in a terrible rainfall. The shelling was still very heavy.
25.8.15. Quiet. Water supply scarce. We waited two hours at a spring with bottles.
26.8.15. Got up early and went for water for breakfast. Fatigue duty to base. At midnight we shifted with full pack to Alli Ba, a most exhausting struggle through the old base and across Salt Lake. We turned in at 5 a.m. after having dug ourselves in.
27.8.15. Quiet morning. In the afternoon we dug trenches for 4 hours. I wounded by shrapnel. In the evening we shifted ¼ mile up the beach.
28.8.15. This day very quiet except for I hour’s heavy sheling. Had a dip. There was plenty of food to be had. Another move at 8.15p.m. We arrived after a most exhausting march within two miles of Anzac.
29.8.15. Sunday. Rested on side of hill but was worried greatly by a machine gun sniper who caused eleven casualties. Here there were swarms of flies which prevented us from sleeping.
30.8.15. At dawn we moved higher up into the hills to escape snipers and dug ourselves in. In the evening we moved off and were digging a trench until dawn (eight hours). I felt half dead by morning. All the time were under heavy fire. The Turks were using starlights to shew our position up.
31.8.15. Went down for supplies. Ted went on observation duty. In our absence several shells came over in quick succession. Over a dozen of my company was wounded while Sgt. Baber and Captain Whitehead were killed. On going to my dugout to get my equipment found it full of shrapnel so Ted and I congratulated ourselves. We moved lower down the hill and dug fresh dugouts. We were now next to an Indian encampment. During the time we were here we got on well with the Indians who gave us chapattis and currie. In the evening resumed digging the previous nights trenches which were now deep enough to be safe to work in again working eight hours on end. Felt tired out.
1.9.15. We had a quiet morning went into Anzac for water (two miles) and had a dip. Resumed digging in evening but for four hours this time.
2.9.15. Fairly quiet day. A few fatigues. Still troubled by snipers. In the evening finished the digging.
3.9.15. Went to Anzac for supply of water had a dip. In the evening we moved into the gully or dried river bed. The camp where we were now called Finsbury Vale.
4.9.15. Again went to Anzac for water. This day 3 men were wounded in my own company. In the evening we marched up into firing line to relieve the Bedfords. We now spent a week in the firing line. At night time no one was allowed to sleep. In the day time we took it in turns to guard the trenches and observe the Turks movements while the rest went into dugouts just behind the trenches. It was not possible to sleep however as the swarms of flies plagued us and the sun was broiling.
8.9.15. Mail reaches us. There were four letters for the platoon mine
had gone astray. Feeling pretty well. Several men had collapsed. Ted changed a pair of socks for some jam. I got some for a shirt.
9.9.15. We had some fresh mutton sent up which was the first fresh meat since landing. More men collapsed this day.
10.9.15. Very heavy artillery duel between our fleet and the Turks. In the evening a charge was made by the Division on our right. We were out of that except for supporting them with heavy rifle fire.
11.9.15. We were relieved by the Bedfords and moved back to Finsbury Vale. We found the gully just as dangerous from snipers as when we left in fact we lost more men at Finsbury Vale than when in the firing line. In the evening of same day forty eight men from our Battalion including Ted and I were sent to join the Colonials. We were tired out when we started and had a terrible drag with full pack up the hills. On arriving at the Colonials encampment. The New Zealanders gave us tea and rice. The men from my company (C 6-7) was attached a trench manned by Mahoris (Maoris) with a N.Z. Captain
12.9.15. Sunday. Found we were less than two hundred yds from the Turks and watched them through the periscope digging and sniping when we got the chance. The Mahoris were a jolly set of fellows and seemed well educated. In the evening they were relieved by Australians from Egypt. I got a few hours sleep the first for a week. Today the Australian Cpt. Was shot through mouth and neck when looking over the parapet (Editor: Lieutenant F E Jensen, 28th Battalion (Western Australia) was shot through the face in the front line. Jensen subsequently died of his wounds. This was the battalion's first day in the Gallipoli trenches).
13.9.15. Australians left. The relieving Australians lost several men from shrapnel.
14.9.15. Weather cools and feeling pretty queer.
15.9.15. Left trenches in evening and moved into gully and laid down for the night. The rain came on and poured all night. In the morning we were half buried in wet sandy soil. In afternoon we left Colonials to rejoin our Regiment. We had only a few casualties while with the Colonials. The march back was a terrible one several collapsed. When halfway back I collapsed myself. Want of sleep and food was taking effect. After resting for an hour I followed the track back to Finsbury Vale passing half a dozen other chaps lying in the road. The stretcher bearers were sent out after them. (Editor: the more fortunate Corporal R.D. Doughty recorded, “Rained like blazes last night, but our dug-out proved quite water proof although the mud was particularly sloppy when we got out this morning. Have just rec. orders to expect a move any old time now to go to some new landing, so I suppose things will be extra brisk soon. HURRAH!”)
16.9.15. Tried to get up with my pack, but could not manage it. Was sent to the doctor and with a party of other sick men marched down to the Beach Hospital with full pack. We straggled into Anzac where was examined and sent to the Hospital Ship the “Somali”. The voyage to Malta was vague as I was delirious the same day. (Editor: it would appear that Rifleman Seabrook had enteric fever. He later recounted that the orderlies were tossing the dead over the side. When they reached him he heard them opine that he was dead and found to his horror that he could not move. As they took hold of him to remove him from the ship he managed to wink an eyelid and by great good fortune this was noticed)
22.9.15 Arrived at Imtafa Hospital, Malta. I was now in bed until I vowed I should never go to bed anymore.
14.11.15 Got 15 letters mostly from Peninsula.
16.11.15 Out of bed for half an hour.
5.12.15 Sailed on “Re’ d’Italia”.
6.12.15 Called at Sicily to land Red Cross Nurses and bedsteads. A new hospital for Australians was being formed there.
10.12.12. Gibralta we made a two hour stay.
11.12.15 Entered Bay. Weather now cooler and sea very rough.
13.12.15 We buried one poor chap in the Channel.
14.12.12. Reached Southampton in early morning. Disembarked in evening.
15.12.15 Arrived at Glasgow where we went to Bellahouston Hospital.
23.12.15 Spent a good Christmas Day.
- Saw Old Year out.
(Editor: Rifleman Seabrook was subsequently posted to Egypt. Happily he survived the War)