List Of Contents | Contents of At Suvla Bay, by John Hargrave
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

By this time I had been promoted to the rank of corporal.

Next to the regimental sergeant-major, I had the loudest drill voice 
on the square, and shouting at squad-drill and stretcher- drill was 
about the only thing I ever did well in the army--except that, having 
been a scout, I was able to instruct the signalling squad.

Route marches and field-days were a relief from the drill square. For 
five months we got no issue of khaki. Many of the men were through at 
the knees, and tattered at the elbows. Some were buttonless and 
patched. I had to put a patch in my shorts. Our civilian boots were 
wearing out--some were right through. Heels came off when they "right 
turned," others had their soles flapping as they marched.

My "batman," who cleaned my boots and swept out the bunk, had his 
trousers held together with a huge safety-pin. The people called us 
"Kitchener's Rag-time Army." We became so torn, and worn, and ragged, 
that it was impossible to go out in the town. Being the only one in 
scout rig-out I drew much attention.

"'Ere 'e comes, Moik-ell!"

"Kitchener's cowboy! Isn't he lovely!"

"Bejazus! so-it-is!"

"Come an' see Path-rick--Kitchener's cowboy!--by-the-holy-sufferin'-

I found an old curio-shop down near the docks, and here I used to 
rummage among the gilded Siamese idols, and the painted African gods 
and drums. I discovered some odd parts of A Thousand-and-One Arabian 
Nights, which I bought for a penny or two, and took back to my 
barrack-room to read. By this means I forgot the gray square, and the 
gray line of the barracks outside, and the bare boards and yellow-
washed walls within.

I used to practise "slipping" the guard at the guard-room gate. This 
form of amusement became quite exciting, and I was never caught at it.

Next I got a very old and worn copy of the Koran.

By this time I was a full-blown sergeant. I made a mistake in walking 
into the sergeants' mess with the Koran under my arm. It was difficult 
to explain what sort of book it was. One day the regimental sergeant-
major said--

"You know, Hargrave, I can't make you out."

"No, sir?"

"No;--you're not a soldier, you never will be--you act the part pretty 
well. But you don't take things seriously enough."

We were often out on the Clare Mountains for field-days with the 
stretcher-squads. Coming back one day, I spotted two herons wading 
among some yellow-ochre sedges in a swampy field. I determined there 
and then to come back and stalk them. The following Saturday I set out 
with a fellow we called "Cherry Blossom," because he never cleaned his 
boots. I took a pair of field-glasses, and "Cherry" had a bag of 
pastries, which we bought on the way. We stalked those herons for 
hours and hours. We crept through the reeds, hid behind trees, and 
crawled into bushes, but the herons were better scouts. We only got 
about fifty yards up to one. For all that, it was like my old scout 
life--and we had had a break from the gray walls and the everlasting 
saluting of officers.

There were rumours of war, and that's all we knew of it. There were 
fresh rumours each day. We were going to Egypt. We were to be sent to 
the East Coast for "home defence." That offended our martial ardour. 
When were we going out? Should we ever get out? Had we got to do squad 
drill for "duration"? Had Kitchener forgotten the Xth Division?

Now and then a batch of men were put into khaki which arrived at the 
quartermaster's stores in driblets. Some had greeny puttees and sandy 
slacks, a "civvy" coat and a khaki cap. Others were rigged out in 
"Kitchener's workhouse blue," with little forage caps on one side. The 
sprinkling of khaki and khaki-browns and greens increased every time 
we came on parade: until one day the whole of the three field 
ambulances were fitted out.

The drill went on like clockwork. It was as if some curse had fallen 
upon us. The officers were "fed up" you could see.

And now, just a word as to army methods. Immediately opposite the 
barracks was a cloth factory, which was turning out khaki uniforms for 
the Government every day.

For five months we went about in civilian clothes. We were a disgrace 
as we marched along. Yet because no order had been given to that 
factory to supply us with uniforms, we had to wait till the uniforms 
had been shipped to England, and then sent back to Ireland for us 
to wear!

The spark of patriotism which was in each man when he enlisted was 
dead. We detested the army, we hated the routine, we were sickened and 
dulled and crushed by drill.

The old habit of being always on the alert for anything picturesque 
saved me from idiotcy. Whenever opportunity offered, or whenever I 
could take French leave, I went off with sketchbook and pencil, and 
forgot for a time the horror of barrack-room life, with its unending 
flow of filthy language, and its barren desolation of yellow-washed 
walls and broken windows.

And then we moved to Dublin.



It may be very amusing to read about "Kipps" and those commonplace 
people whom Mr. H.G. Wells describes so cleverly, but to have to live 
with them in barracks is far from pleasant.

There were shop-assistants, dental mechanics, city clerks, office 
boys, medical students, and a whole mass of very ordinary, very 
uninteresting people. There was a fair sprinkling of mining engineers 
and miners, and these men were more interesting and of a far stronger 
mental and physical development. They were huge, full-chested, strong-
armed men who swore and drank heavily, but were honest and straight.

There were characters here from the docks and from the merchant 
service, some of whom had surely been created for W.W. Jacobs. One in 
particular--Joe Smith, a sailor-man (an engine-greaser, I think)--was 
full of queer yarns and seafaring talk. He was a little man with beady 
eyes and a huge curled moustache. He walked about quickly, with the 
seamen's lurch, as I have noticed most seagoing men of the merchant 
service do.

This man "came up" in bell-bottomed trousers and a pea jacket. He was 
fond of telling a yarn about a vessel which was carrying a snake in a 
crate from the West Indies. This snake got into the boiler when they 
were cleaning out the engine-room.

"The capt'in ses to me, 'Joe.' I ses, 'Yes-sir.' 'Joe,' says 'e, 
'wot's to be done?'

"'Why,' ses I, 'thing is ter git this 'ere snake out ag'in!'

"'Jistso,' says the capt'in; 'but 'oo' ter do it?'--'E always left 
everythink ter me--and I ses, 'Why, sir, it's thiswise, if sobe all 
the others are afeared, I ain't, or my name's Double Dutch.'

"'Very good, melad,' ses the capt'in, 'I relies on you, Joe.'--'E 
always did--and would you believe it, I upped an' 'ooked that there 
great rattlesnake out of the boiler with an old hum-brella!"

There was a clerk who stood six-foot eight who was something of a 
"knut." He told me that at home he belonged to a "Lit'ry Society," and 
I asked him what books they had and which he liked.

"Books?" he asked. "'Ow d'yow mean?"

"You said a Literary Society, didn't you?"

"Oh yes, we 'ave got books. But, you know, we go down there and 'ave a 
concert, or read the papers, and 'ave a social, perhaps, you know; 
sometimes ask the girls round to afternoon tea."

I had a barrack-room full of these people to look after. Most of them 
got drunk. Once a young medical student tried to knife me with a 
Chinese jack-knife which his uncle, a missionary, had given him. He 
had "downed" too much whisky. Just as boys do at school, so these men 
formed into cliques, and "hung together" in twos and threes.

Some of them, like the "lit'ry society" clerk, had never seen much of 
life or people; had lived in a little suburban villa and pretended to 
be "City men." Others had knocked about all over the world. These were 
mostly seafaring men. Savage was such a one. He was one of the 
buccaneer type, strong and sunburnt, with tattooed arms. Often he sang 
an old sea-song, which always ended, "Forty-five fadom, and a clear 
sandy bottom!" He knew most of the sea chanties of the old days, one 
of which went something in this way--

     "Heave away Rio! Heave away Rio! 
     So fare thee well, my sweet pretty maid! 
     Heave away Rio! Heave away Rio! 
     For there's plenty of gold--so we've been told-- 
     On the banks of the Sacrament--o!"

An old Irish apple-woman used to come into the barracks, and sit by 
the side of the parade ground with two baskets of apples and a box of 

She did a roaring trade when we were dismissed from drill.

We always addressed her as "Mother." She looked se witch-like that one 
day I asked--

"Can you tell a fortune, Mother?"

"Lord-love-ye, no! Wad ye have the Cuss o' Jazus upon us all? Ye shud 
see the priest, sor."

"And can he?"

"No, Son! All witch-craftin' is forbid in the Book by the Holy Mother 
o' Gord, so they do be tellin' me."

"Can no one in all Ireland read a fortune now, Mother?"

"Ach, Son, 'tis died out, sure. Only in the old out-an'-away parts 
'tis done; but 'tis terrible wicked!"

She was a good bit of colour. I have her still in my pocket-book. Her 
black shawl with her apples will always remind me of early barrack- 
days at Limerick if I live to be ninety.



Seldom are we lucky enough to meet in real life a character so strong 
and vivid, so full of subtle characteristics, that his appearance in a 
novel would make the author's name. Such a character was Hawk.

When you consider, you find that many an author of note has made a 
lasting reputation by evolving some such character; and in most cases 
this character has been "founded on fact." For example, Stevenson's 
"Long John Silver," Kipling's "Kim," and Rider Haggard's "Alan 

Had Kipling met Hawk he would have worked him into a book of Indian 
soldier life; for Hawk was full of jungle adventures and stories of 
the Indian Survey Department and the Khyber Pass; while his 
descriptions of Kashmir and Secunderabad, with its fakirs and 
jugglers, monkey temples and sacred bulls, were superb.

On the other hand, Haggard would have placed him "somewhere in 
Africa," a strong, hard man trekking across the African veldt he knew 
so well; for Hawk had been in the Boer War.

Little did I realise when I met him on the barrack-square at Limerick 
how fate would throw us together upon the scorching sands and rocky 
ridges of Gallipoli, nor could either of us foresee the hairbreadth 
escapes and queer corners in which we found ourselves at Suvla Bay and 
on the Serbian frontier.

I spotted him in the crowd as the only man on parade with a strong, 
clear-cut face. I noted his drooping moustache, and especially his 
keen grey eyes, which glittered and looked through and through. 
Somewhere, I told myself, there was good blood at the back of beyond 
on his line of descent. I was right, for, as he told me later, when I 
had come to know him as a trusty friend, he came from a Norseman 
stock. The jaw was too square and heavy, but the high-built chiselled 
nose and the deep-set clear grey eyes were a "throw-back" on the old 
Viking trail. Although dressed in ragged civilian clothes he looked a 
huge, full-grown, muscular man; active and well developed, with the 
arms of a miner and the chest of a gorilla. On one arm I remember he 
had a heart with a dagger through it tattooed in blue and red.

I heard of him first as one to be shunned and feared. For it was said 
that "when in drink" he would pick up the barrack-room fender with one 
hand and hurl it across the room. I was told that he was a master of 
the art of swearing--that he could pour forth a continual flow of 
oaths for a full five minutes without repeating one single "cuss."

My interest was immediately aroused. I smelt adventure, and I was on 
the adventure trail. Hawk was not in my barrack-room, and therefore I 
knew but little of him while in the old country. I heard that he had 
been galloper-dispatch-rider to Lord Kitchener in South Africa, and I 
tried to get him to talk about it. As an "artist's model," for a 
canvas to be called "The Buccaneer," Hawk was perfect. I never saw a 
man so splendidly developed.

And Hawk was fifty years old! You would take him for thirty-nine or 

But "drink and the devil had done for the rest"--Hawk himself 
acknowledged it. His vices were the vices of a strong man, and when he 
was drunk he was "the very devil."

He was "the old soldier," and knew all the ins and outs of army life. 
I quickly became entangled in the interest of unravelling his complex 
nature. On the one hand he was said to be a desperado and double-dyed 
liar. On the other hand, if he respected you, he would always tell you 
the naked truth, and would never "let you down." He knew drink was his 
ruin, but he could not and would not stop it. Yet his advice to me was 
always good. Indeed, although he had the reputation of a bold, bad 
blackguard, he never led any one else on the "wrong trail," and his 
advice to young soldiers in the barrack-rooms was wonderfully clear 
and useful.

If he respected you, you could trust your life with him. If he didn't, 
you could "look up" for trouble. He was honest and "square"--if he 
liked you--but he could make things disappear by "sleight of hand" in 
a manner worthy of a West End conjurer.

He was a miner, and had a sound knowledge of mining and practical 
geology which many a science-master might have been proud of. He had 
the eyes of a trained observer, and I afterwards discovered he was a 
crack shot.

Some months later, when the A.S.C. ambulance drivers were exercising 
their horses, he showed himself a good rough-rider, and I recalled his 
"galloper" days. And again at Lemnos and Suvla he was a splendid 
swimmer. He was an all-round man. Unlike the other men in barracks--
the shop assistants and clerks--Hawk never missed noticing small 
things, and it was this which first drew my attention to him.

I remember one night hearing a woman's voice wailing a queer Hindoo 
chant. It came from the barrack-room door. Afterwards I discovered it 
was Hawk sitting on his trestle bed cross-legged, with a bit of 
sacking and ashes on his head imitating the death-wail of an Indian 
woman for her dead husband.

Hawk knew all the rites and ceremonies of the various Hindoo castes, 
and could act the part of a fakir or a bazaar-wullah with wonderful 

By turns Hawk was a heavy drinker and a clear-brained man of action, 
calm in danger.

In those early days of my "military career" I looked upon him only as 
an author looks upon an interesting character.

Months afterwards, on the death-swept peninsula, Hawk and I became 
fast friends. The "bad man" of the ambulance became the most useful, 
most faithful, in my section. We went everywhere together--like 
"Horace and Holly" of Rider Haggard fame: he the great, strong man, 
and I the young artist scout.

If Hawk was out of camp, you could bet I was also--and vice-versa.

Of Hawk more anon.

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: