List Of Contents | Contents of At Suvla Bay, by John Hargrave
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We moved to Dublin after seven months of drill and medical lectures in 
barracks at Limerick.

After about a fortnight in the Portobello Barracks we crossed to 
England and pitched our camp at Basingstoke. Here we had two or three 
months' divisional training. The whole of the Xth Division--about 
25,000 men--used to turn out for long route-marches.

We were out in all weathers. We took no tents, and "slept out." This 
was nothing to me, as I had done it on my own when scouting hundreds 
of times. It amused me to hear the men grumbling about the hard 
ground, and to see them rubbing their hips when they got up. It was a 
hard training. Still we didn't seem to be going out, and once again, 
the novelty of a new place having worn off, we became unspeakably 
"fed up."

Here at Basingstoke we were inspected by the King, and later by Lord 

Then came the issue of pith helmets and khaki drill uniforms, and the 
Red Cross brassards on the left arm.

Rumour ran riot. We were going to India; we were going to East Africa 
. . . some one even mentioned Japan! There was a new rumour each day.

Then one day, at brief notice, we were quietly entrained at 
Basingstoke and taken down to the docks at Devonport before anyone had 
wind of the matter.

All our ambulance wagons, and field medical equipment in wickerwork 
panniers, went with us, and it would astonish a civilian to see the 
amount of stores and Red Cross materials with which a field ambulance 
moves. And so, after much waiting about, aboard the Canada.



Intricate and vivid detail leave a more startling imprint on the 
memory-film than the main purport of any great adventure, whether it 
be a polar expedition, a new discovery, or such a stupendous 
undertaking as that in which we were now involved.

The fact of our departure had been carefully kept quiet, and our 
destination was unknown. It might have been a secret expedition in 
search of buried treasure. Yet, in spite of all precaution, we might 
be torpedoed at any moment and go down with all hands, or strike a 
mine and be blown up. We knew that victory or defeat were hanging in 
the balance, and perhaps the destiny of nations. But while the 
magnitude of the venture has left no impression--I cannot recall that 
we ever spoke about it--commonplace details remain.

The pitch bubbling in the seams under a Mediterranean sun; the queer 
iridescent shapes of glowing, greenish phosphorus in the nighttime 
sea; the butter melting into yellow oil on the plate on the saloon 
table; the sickly smell of steam and grease and oil from the engine-
room; the machine gun fixed at the stern with its waterproof hood; the 
increasing brilliance of the stars, and the rapid descent of evening 
upon the splendid colour-prism of a Mediterranean sunset--these, and 
thousands of other intimate commonplaces, are inlaid for ever in my 

We went about in our shirts and drill "slacks," and the scorching 
boards of the deck blistered our naked feet. In a few days we became 
sun-tanned. Each one of us had a sunburnt V-shaped triangle on the 
chest where we left our shirts open.

The voyage was uneventful. The food was poor. There was very little 
fresh water to drink. It was July. The heat was fatiguing, and the 
sun-glare blinding.

The coast of Algeria on our right looked bare and terribly forsaken. 
It had an awfulness about it--a mystery look; it looked like a "juju" 
country, with its sandy spit running like a narrow ribbon to the blue 
sea, and its hazy, craggy mountains quivering in the noonday heat.

Hawk and I were in the habit of coming up from our bunks in the 
evening. We used to lean over the handrail and watch the wonder of a 
Mediterranean sunset transform in schemes of peacock-blue and beetle-
green, down and down, through emerald, pale gold and lemon yellow, and 
so to the horizon of the inland sea, in bands of deep chrome and 
orange, scarlet, mauve and purple.

Hawk was the only man I discovered in all those hundreds of apparently 
commonplace souls who could really appreciate and never tire of 
watching and discussing these things.

I had often heard of the blue of the Mediterranean. But I must confess 
that I rather thought it had been exaggerated by authors, artists and 
poets as a fruitful and beautiful source of inspiration.

I never saw such blues before: electric-blue and deep, seething navy 
blue, flecked with foam and silver spray; calm lapis-lazuli blue; a 
sort of greeny, mummy-case blue; flashing, silk-shot blue, like a 
kingfisher's feathers. Sometimes the sea was as calm as a mill-pond, 
and you could see down and down and down.

There is a certain milky look in the waters of the Mediterranean which 
I never saw anywhere else. What it is I do not know, but it hangs in 
the water like a cloud. Once there was a shoal of porpoises playing 
round us, and they curled and dived and flopped in the warm blue seas.

At night Hawk and I stood for hours watching first one constellation 
"light up," and then another, till the whole purple-velvet of the 
Mediterranean night sky was pinholed with the old familiar star-

It struck me as most extraordinary, and almost uncanny, to see the 
same old stars we knew in England, still above us, so many hundred 
miles from home.

Phosphorescent fragments went floating along beneath us like bits of 
broken moonlight.

In watching and talking of these things, I quickly perceived in Hawk a 
man who not only noticed small detail and took a real interest in 
Nature, but one who had a sound, natural philosophy and a good idea of 
the reasonable and scientific explanation of things which so many 
people either ignore or look upon as "atheistic."

We did not yet know whither we were sailing. We knew we were part of 
the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, and that was all.

One day we put in at Malta.

Here the fruit-boats, all painted green and red and white and blue, 
came rowing out to meet us. The Maltese who manned them stood upto row 
their oars-and rowed the right way forwards, instead of facing the 
wrong way, as we do in England. They were selling tomatoes and pears, 
apples, chocolate, cigars, cigarettes, Turkish delight, and lace. 

Continually they cried their goods- 



"Tomart! Tomart!"

One man recognised us as the Irish Division, and shouted--

"Irish! Irish! My father Irish--from Dundee!"

Here were diving-boys in their own tiny boats, diving for pennies. 
They were wonderfully lithe and graceful, with sun-tanned limbs and 
dripping black hair.

Here, too, was a huge old man, who was also diving for pennies and 
tins of bully-beef. He was fat and sun-browned, and his muscles and 
chest were well developed.

"Me dive for bully-beef!" he shouted. "Me dive for bully-beef!"

Never once did he fail to retrieve these tins when they were chucked 

The tomatoes were very large and ripe, and the tobacco and cigarettes 
exceedingly cheap and good. Most of the men got a stock.

The next day we put to sea again.

It was a real voyage of adventure, for here we were, on an unknown 
course, sailing under sealed orders, no one knew whither, nor did we 
know what would be the climax to this great enterprise.

Would any of us ever return across those blue-green waters? . . . Or 
would our bones lie, a few days hence, bleaching on the yellow sands? 
. . . Mystery and adventure sailed with us--and each day the heat 
increased. The sun blazed from a brazen sky, the shadow of the 
halyards and the great ventilators were clear-cut black silhouettes 
upon the baking decks.

The decks were crammed with that same khaki crowd of civilians who had 
cursed and sworn and drilled and growled for ten long months in the 
Old Country. You imagine what desperate adventurers they had suddenly 
become. Some had never been out of Ireland, others had been as far as 
Portsmouth, and taken a return voyage to the Isle of Wight. And each 
day we zigzagged across the blue seas towards some unknown Fate . . . 
death, perhaps . . . victory or failure--who could tell?

Until one day a thin, yellowish-white streak appeared upon the sea-
line; little groups of palms huddled together, and here and there a 
white dome or a needle-minaret. And so we warped into harbour, through 
the boom and past the Iightships, to join the crowd of transports and 
battle cruisers lying off this muddled city--the city of wonderful 
colour, Alexandria.



                     Flashing like a magic screen. 
                          Silken garment, 
                          'Broidered hood; 
                        Richly woven gown; 
                     Flashing like a pantomime, 
                        In and out Aladdin's town.

                          Fretted lattice; 
                          Dancing girl; 
                     Drooping lash and ebon curl. 
                          Silver tassel; 
                          Scented room; 
                         Almond "glad"-eye-look. 
                     Queersome figures prowling round, 
                         From some kiddies' picture-book.

                                         Graeco-Serbian Frontier,
                                         J. H., October 1915.

The coal-yards and dingy quays looked gray and chill. Here were 
gray-painted Government sheds, with white numbers on the sliding
doors, dull gray trucks, and dirty sidings.

A couple of Egyptian native police in khaki drill, brown belts,
side-arms, red fezes, and carrying canes, both smoking cigarettes, 
swaggered up and down in front of an arc-light.

There were dump-yards and gray tin offices, rusty cranes, and a gray 
floating quay. Gangs of Egyptian beggars in ragged clothes and a flock 
of little brown children continually dodged the native police as we 
sailed slowly through the docks. They were the only touch of colour in 
a muddle of Government buildings, stores, and transport ships.

We were all crowding to the handrail looking overboard. The Egyptian 
sunset had just vanished and the deep blue of an Eastern night held 
the docks in a haze of gloom.

The pipe band of the Inniskillings was playing "The Wearin' o' the 
Green" in that mournful, gurgling chant which we came to know so well.

One of the little Egyptian beggar-girls was dancing to it on the 
floating quay down below us by the flicker of the arc-lamp. She was a 
tiny mite, with a shock of black hair and brown face and arms. She 
wore a pink dress with some brass buttons hung round her neck. She 
danced with all the supple gracefulness of the out-door tribes of the 
desert, never out of step, always true and rhythmic in every motion of 
arms and body.

When the pipes on board trailed away with a hiss of wind and a 
choking, gurgling noise into silence the little dancing girl began to 
sing in a deep, musical voice--the voice of one who has lived out-of-
doors in tents--

     "Itta long way--Tipple-airy!
     --Long way to go!
     --Long way--Tipple-airy!
     Sweetie girl I know! . . ."

She sang in broken English, and danced to the tune, which she knew 

The khaki crowd aboard whistled and cheered and laughed. Some one 
threw a penny. The whole gang of beggars scrambled after it, and there 
ensued a scrimmage with much shouting and swearing in Arabic.

We could see the city lit up beyond the dull gray docks.

Next morning we went for a route march through Alexandria. We marched 
through the dockyards. Gangs of native workmen in native costume-
coloured robes and bare feet, turbans and red fezes--were working on 
the transports, unloading box after box of bully-beef and biscuit and 
piling them in huge "dumps" on the quays. Rusty chains clanked, steam 
cranes rattled and puffed out whiffs of white steam.

But they did not hustle or hurry. They worked under the direction of 
English sergeants and officers, loading and unloading.

At last we got outside the zone of awful ugliness which follows the 
British wherever they go. The docks were left behind and the change 
was sudden and startling.

It was like putting down a novel by Arnold Bennett and taking up the 

I did not trouble to keep in step or "cover off." My eyes were trying 
to take in the splendid Eastern scenes. Here were figures which had 
come right out of the Arabian Nights.

Was that not Haroun Al Raschid, Commander of the Faithful, disguised 
as a water-carrier, with a goatskin bottle slung over his shoulder, 
and great yellow baggy trousers and a striped cummerbund?

Here were veiled women and old men squatting under their open bazaar 
fronts, with coloured mats and blinds strung across the narrow 
streets. Fruit sellers surrounded by melons, and beans, tomatoes and 
figs and dates--a jumble of colour, orange, scarlet, green, and gold. 
Pitchers and jars and woven carpets; queer Eastern scents; shuttered 
windows and flat roofs, mules and here and there a loaded camel, two 
Jews in black robes, a band of wild- looking desert wanderers in white 
with hoods and veils.

Egyptian women carrying little brown babies; who would believe there 
could be such figures, such colour and picturesque compositions?

It was a short march, but we saw much.

So this was the land of Egypt. It was good. What a pity we could see 
so little of it . . .

There were very smartly dressed French women with faces powdered and 
painted and scented. Old men with hollow eyes and yellow parchment 
skins all creased and wrinkled squatted on the cobble-stones, smoking 
hubble-bubbles and long ivory-stemmed pipes.

Arab boys selling oranges ran about the streets. The heat was 
stifling--the shadows purple-black, the sunlight glared golden-white 
on the buildings and towers and minarets.

Here were curio-shops with queer oriental carvings and alabaster 

It was like a chapter of my _Thousand-and-One Nights_ come true, and I 
remembered the gray barracks at Limerick and the incessant drill.

At last we marched back through the docks and aboard the Canada. Next 
morning we were sailing far away upon a blue sea. Just a glimpse of 
the city of wonderful colour and we were once more creeping closer and 
closer to the mystery of our unknown venture.

Many of us would never pass that way again--and each one wondered 
sometimes if he would be claimed by that Mechanical Death which none 
of us fully realised.

Only a few short hours--a day or two longer--and we should be plunged 
into battle. A bullet for one, shrapnel for another, dysentery for a 
third, a bayonet or death from weakness and starvation.

The great game of luck was gathering faster and faster. We loafed 
about on deck and wondered where we were going and what it would be 
like . . . our minds were thinking of the immediate future. Each one 
tried to make out he didn't care, but each one was thinking upon the 

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