Lord Kitchener is distracting himself from the Gallipoli situation with a bracing visit to the Western Front. Once more he finds himself in the presence of Sir John French, instructing the chief of the BEF to do something he doesn’t particularly want to. Sir John is still protesting heavily, but with his own war minister well and truly nobbled by the Gauls, the writing’s on the wall. He’s going to have to fight the Battle of Loos with full force, whether he likes it or not.
Battle of Scimitar Hill
There’s a lot of people being ordered to do things they really shouldn’t have had to. On Gallipoli they’re just sending out the orders for the Battle of Scimitar Hill and the Battle of Hill 60 (Gallipoli). The tactics are hopelessly primitive. 29th Division plus hangers-on will charge Scimitar Hill, while one of IX Corps’s battered Kitchener’s Army divisions does the same at the W Hills. Ammunition has been carefully husbanded for the last week. Sir Ian Hamilton has unbolted the kitchen sink and sent it over. It’s being supplemented by the ANZACs at Hill 60. The fact remains that the blokes will have to advance hundreds of yards across open ground in clear view of the enemy.
Austen Chamberlain has finally approved another operation in Mesopotamia, this one to advance up the River Tigris to Kut-al-Amara. Lord Hardinge will soon add his approval, and in a few days time, General Nixon will be rather loftily instructing General Townshend to draw up a detailed plan for the occupation of Kut and the destruction of any Ottomans who might get in his way. Townshend’s memoirs claim that he signalled back to Nixon saying that if the Ottomans again withdraw from him, he “might follow them into Baghdad”, which would only involve a further 100-mile extension of the force’s supply lines. Both men are being remarkably casual about everything.
It’ll take a couple of weeks to assemble the men and put their supply arrangements in place.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Herbert Sulzbach is still having fun. This is a very important perspective to have. It’s no less valid a war experience than the men who are suffering in the Ypres salient, the Argonne Forest, or at the Carso. There’s far more to the experience of any soldier in the war than just combat, shelling, and death.
The whole battery unit rode over to our new observation post south of Loermont. We dismounted by the most splendid natural caves you could possible imagine. They extend for kilometres under the high ground, splitting into a maze of passages which in many cases come out in the French lines. Of course, they have been walled up and guarded by particularly strong machine-gun nests.
The caves have been turned into a regular town, with ambulances standing ready. Horses, kitchens, and whole reserve infantry battalions are all quartered in there. It’s terribly hard to find your way about inside. Our observation post is opposite Utteche-Ferme, a shelled-out farm building strongly fortified by the French. You can see them building trenches.
Meanwhile, Kenneth Best’s convalescence is over. His enteritis has cleared up, although he’s considerably short of full fitness. In normal conditions he’d be given quite a bit longer to recover. However, every inch of space is now needed to deal with the sheer weight of casualties from Suvla Bay and ANZAC Cove. He’s just about to take ship for Cape Helles to rejoin his battered division, and he writes home to his family while treating himself to a couple of nights in a good hotel.
I was signing my name in the book when a silly ass thumped me on the back and called out “Hello, Beast!” Turning round, there was old Waffle Andrews. He had left the peninsula with dysentery, and was convalescing at this very hotel! I cannot tell you what a real evening we had. He did not know I was in the MEF, and I never thought he could come back from ANZAC Cove alive. He has had countless narrow escapes. Slightly hit two or three times, and all the rest of his stretcher-squad were killed. We have done nothing but sit about, feed, and talk. He has been doing chaplains’ work as well as stretcher bearing, and the Australians were so pleased they offered him a chaplaincy.
I embark for the Dardanelles today. The last transport was sunk by a submarine, so I shall be canny and sleep on deck with a life-belt. I fancy the show here is nearly over. It is time, too. I don’t suppose that the rate of casualties has been so heavy in any other field of operations. I wonder whether thee will be any Chaplains left on the Peninsula. Alexandria is full of them. Fit, wounded, and sick. Perhaps our gallant little remnant of a division may be sent home soon. They would not require much deck space.
Emphasis is, for once, not mine.
Actions in Progress
The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. Worth a look. I’m reading the paper every day, and it’s where the content for Our Advertising Feature comes from.
(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)