Evacuation of Gallipoli
Time for the ANZACs to leave ANZAC Cove. Before we get into the details of what they’re doing, first we must take note of the first actually useful attack from Cape Helles since the First Battle of Krithia. It’s an unashamed diversion, of course, and it achieves its purpose of getting the Ottomans to not look at the north of the peninsula, nothing to see there, hoo boy, no way at all.
So, on with the ANZACs. They leave behind them a considerable quantity of food and supplies, several amusing notes to their opponents, and very, very slightly less than 12,000 dead (8,700 Australian and 2,780 New Zealand). They’ve also completed several courses of an extremely important lesson: the British Empire does not necessarily have their best interests at heart. The blokes have also been passing the last few nervous hours with some ingenious constructions. Lance-Corporal William Scurry, 7th Victoria Battalion:
t occurred to me that if we could leave our rifles firing we might get away more surely. The sand of the hourglass was the first germ of the idea. If the sand could be made to trickle from above into a container attached to the trigger, the increased weight would finally release it. Next day I started on the idea but it wouldn’t work. The sand wouldn’t run and the trigger wanted a jerk to pull it. The jerk was easily got over by the cartridge box full of dirt, but water was the only thing that I could think of to replace the sand.
Hundreds of those rifles have been installed in the line. In other places, individuals are wandering up and down a trench, firing off shots and throwing grenades from various positions to give the impression that they’re all occupied. The Ottomans can’t do anything without terrifying the blokes. Everything is potentially the first indication of a surprise night attack. But nothing turns out to be. The last men escape with blankets wrapped round their boots. Mines have been left with a time-delay fuse to explode after everyone’s been taken off.
At Suvla, there’s less comedic ingenuity and contraption building, but also a great deal less worry. I’d quote Lieutenant Clement Attlee (6th South Lancashires) more extensively, but his reminiscence is remarkably dull. Attlee was certainly one of the very last men to leave, reputedly the last but one (just ahead of General Maude, 13th Division’s commander).
Everything was very peaceful, though there were occasional shots to be heard from Anzac. Then we got the order to move. The men hustled up the trench, machine guns going first. I brought up the rear and found at the pier a few military police, General Maude and a few of the staff. We went on board lighters which seemed to go round and round. Flames shot up from the dumps of abandoned stores.
And, before the sun has risen, they’re long gone, having got clean away with barely more than a stubbed toe to show for it. Just to add a full stop, the weather turns in the afternoon and a severe gale blows in. It doesn’t bear thinking about what might have happened if they’d delayed another day.
It’s another important day for French tank production; about a year after the Army began investigating the idea, the Schneider company’s tank project has been given official sanction and support. It’s a positive step, but the Schneider CA1 is still six to nine months behind the comparable British effort. Still, better late than never.
Private Flora Sandes is currently having her first in-service experience of that great shared military experience, “waiting in the arse end of nowhere for something to happen”.
My company was told off to take up a position by itself on a range of hills, and we went up there in the afternoon by a very bad steep track, through bushes with very big prickly thorns. The hills were covered with bracken, which we cut down to make beds of, and pitched our tents in a little hollow.
We were all by ourselves up there, and had a very quiet four days, as we seemed at last to have shaken off the pursuing Bulgarians, and it seemed sometimes as if everyone had forgotten all about us. We were the only company up there, and were a very funny looking camp, with the men sitting about resting and repairing their clothes, and washing hanging out on all the bushes; in fact, we said ourselves that we looked more like a travelling gipsies’ encampment than the smartest company in the regiment.
Things are looking up for Louis Barthas. He appears to actually been given that period of rest that he’s always being promised. But first, the company has to march under the command of Captain Cros-Mayrevielle.
We covered the journey on foot. We had to loosen up our legs, which had stiffened after three months in the trenches. Unfortunately for me, like for many others, the more I walked, the wobblier my legs got, and soon it seemed like I was carrying a load of lead on my shoulders, so heavily was my pack weighing me down. We were marching steadily. It was noon. The time for a break had passed a moment ago. The company, at a fork in the road, had left the column and was proceeding by itself, under the orders of our Kronprinz, perched on his nag.
A few timid cries of “How about a rest break?”—quickly suppressed by the section chiefs—must have reached the big ears of the captain, but he appeared not to hear them. He was serious, lost in thought, careful. His mind was no doubt seeking the solution of some thorny strategic problem, or perhaps, more prosaically, he was thinking about whether he would find a comfortable bed, a well-stocked table, and pretty ladies at the next cantonment.
After the best part of the day, the blokes stagger into Beaudricourt and find holes to crawl into for the night.
I want to be there very much, to look after them, poor dears: but I must say that Tommy Atkins’s view that a place like Kut is desirable to be in never fails to amaze me, familiar though it now is. I had another instance of it last night. About twelve of my draft were left behind on various duties when the Coy. went up-river in such a hurry. Hearing that my knee was so much better they sent me a deputy to ask me to make every effort to take them with me if I went up-river.
I agreed, of course, but what, as usual, struck me was that the motives I can understand—that one’s duty is with the Company when there’s trouble around, or even that it’s nicer to be with one’s pals at Kut than lonely at Amarah—didn’t appear at all. The two things he kept harping on were (1) it’s so dull to miss a “scrap” and (2) there may be a special clasp given for Kut, and we don’t want to miss it. They evidently regard the Coy. at Kut as lucky dogs having a treat: the “treat” when analysed (which they don’t) consisting of 20lb. kits in December, half-rations, more or less regular bombardment, no proper billets, no shops, no letters, and very hard work!
My leg is very decidedly better now. I can walk half-a-mile without feeling any aches, and soon hope to do a mile. There is an obstinate little puffy patch which won’t disappear just beside the knee-cap: but the M.O. says I may increase my walk each day up to the point where it begins to ache.
We have had no rain here for nearly a month; but there are light clouds about which make the most gorgeous sunsets I ever saw.
I do find it interesting that he seems to regard the blokes’ attitude as having spontaneously manifested, rather than having been deliberately cultivated. Up-river, the siege continues.
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