Diseased bagpipes | 13 Jul 1915

Battle of Malazgirt

The fight for the Belican Hills is going rather well for the Russians. They’re sensibly aiming the main force of a two-pronged attack at the saddle between the two peaks, trying to cut the Ottoman garrison in two. The defenders are resisting stubbonly, but Russian reserves are closer to hand. More soon.

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Achi Baba Nullah

The Battle of Achi Baba Nullah continues. Kilted Scotsmen go over the top today in the company of the shattered remnants of the Royal Naval Division. To their right, the Senegalese are bashing themselves against the next Ottoman strong-point.

They capture some trenches. That’s not the problem. The problem is that it’s a roasting summer day, and the Ottoman gunners in the rear are still very much alive. They’re still hammering No Man’s Land. Anything that might possibly resemble a communications trench has by this point been collapsed by shellfire or choked with the dead. Able-Seaman Thomas Macmillan of the Royal Naval Division points out the obvious problem.

Our water bottles were now empty and thirst increased with the increasing heat of the day; yet we had to carry on without water until … the Battalion Chief Petty Officer arrived with a large skin bag which looked for all the world like a diseased bagpipe minus the chanter. For a measure he carried a Wills tobacco tin, which normally contained two ounces of tobacco, and from this tin each man received two rations of water.

Unfortunately it was found impossible to get forward to an isolated Company of the Drakes, who set to dig for the precious liquid; but as soon as they reached moist earth they stuffed their mouths with it in order to relieve their torment.

Speaking of the guns, Bombardier Ralph Doughty describes for us the problems that they’re having to deal with.

Turks counter-attacked in force and gave us particular hell with vengeance. We’ve just stopped firing for the third time this morning and, as far as we can find out, the ground gained yesterday has been held by our chaps. Had a glorious time – started at 6.30 a.m., stopped firing at 9.10 p.m. Worked the old gun till the springs broke and the piece itself was so hot that the bearings expanded with the heat and stopped the recoil.

We fired 1,160 rounds. My hands are burnt beautifully. Can hardly close my left. Got a whack on the knee which put me off the gun for half an hour but it’s OK again. Heavy fighting all night. What a day. One of the hottest and best we’ve had. Have just repulsed a mass attack by the Turks. Can’t close my right hand, agony to write. We’re all like niggers. Absolutely black with cordite smoke and dust.

Both sides have fought themselves into the ground over the last couple of days. The Ottomans, of course, have plentiful reinforcements arriving in theatre. Their opponents do not.

Kenneth Best

Kenneth Best is watching on. During the night he moved up into the trenches; at lunchtime he goes back to the stores.

Unfortunately, I accept an RSM’s officer of his seat, with result I was constantly being woken up by mistake. The last officer I saw that night was killed shortly after by shrapnel. Poor boys are not allowed to lean on rifle or they would fall asleep.

Had lunch with officer, who had just been to Lemnos, and quartermaster. NCO says there are only two ways of General Douglas [commanding the East Lancs Division] getting killed – by lyddite on top of direct hit, or by bullet from his own men.

We are told 100 officers assigned to lines of communication live in luxury, enjoying fresh fruit, wine, strolls in Lemnos. So they earn their [gallantry medals] while officers are being killed by the score in the trenches unrecognised. A battalion is led by 5 officers instead of 30.

Arrange to bury Lt Dixon in Gully. Buried Bombardier Woods (Roman Catholic) after waiting an hour for Furlong. Had supper with Army Service Corps officer at 5th Battery.

He goes on at considerably more length about the failings of the REMFs and watching a doomed attack by kilted Scotsmen.

Actions in Progress

Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive
Armenian Genocide
Battle of Malazgirt
Battle of Achi Baba Nullah

Further Reading

I have a Twitter account, @makersley, which you can follow to be notified of updates and get all my retweets of weird and wonderful First World War things. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

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.)

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