List Of Contents | Contents of At Suvla Bay, by John Hargrave
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same subject--his luck, fate, kismet. How many would return to old 
England--should I be one; or would the Eastern sunshine blaze down 
upon my decomposing body on some barren sandy shore?

We passed many of the Greek Islands--some came up pink and mauve out 
of the sea, others were green with vineyards; once or twice a little 
triangular-sailed boat bobbed along the coast.

The uncertainty was a strain, and we felt utterly cut off, until at 
last we sighted a sandy streak, and later a line of volcanic-looking 
peaks--the Isle of Lemnos.



                          LEMNOS HARBOUR

     Within the outer anchorage 
     The ancient Argonauts lay to; 
     Little they dreamt--that dauntless crew-- 
     That here to-day in the sheltered bay 
     Where the seas are still and blue, 
     Great battle-ships should froth and 
     hum, And mighty transport-vessels come 
          Serenely floating through.

     With magic sail the Argonauts 
     Stood by to go about; 
     Little they thought--that hero band-- 
     As they made once more for an unknown land 
     In a world of terror and doubt, 
     That here in the wake of the magical bough 
     Should come the all-terrible ironclad now 
          Serenely floating out. 

               Written on Mudros Beach: Oct. 7, 1915.

July the twenty-seventh.

The deadly silence . . .

The tenderfoot on an expedition of this sort naturally expects to find 
himself plunged into a whirl of noise and tumult.

The crags were colourless and shimmering in the heat. The harbour was 
calm and greeny- blue. One by one, with our haversacks and water-
bottles, belts and rolled overcoats, we went down the companion-way 
into the waiting surf-boats. Again and again these boats, roped 
together and tugged by a little launch, went back and forth from the
S.S. Canada to the "Turk's Head Pier"-a tiny wooden jetty built by
the Engineers.

I asked one of the straw-hatted men of the Naval Division, who was 
casting off the painter, what the place was like--

"Sand an' flies, and flies an' sand--nothinkelse!" he replied.

No sooner ashore than the green and black flies came pestering and 
tormenting like a host of wicked jinn. The glare of sunlight on the 
yellow sand hurt the eyes. The deadly silence of the place was 
oppressive--especially when you had strung yourself up to concert 
pitch to face the crash and turmoil of a fearful battle.

The quiet isolation and khaki desolation of jagged peaks and sandy 
slopes was nerve-breaking.

You could see the thin lines of the wireless station and little groups 
of white bell-tents dotted here and there.

Robinson Crusoe wasn't in it. Sand and flies and sun; sun and flies 
and sand.

"Wot 'ave we struck 'ere, Bill?"

"Some d---d desert island, I reckon!"

"A blasted heath . . ."

"Gordlummy, look at the d---d flies!"

"Curse the ---- sun; sweat's trickling down me back."

"And curse all the d---d issue . . ."

"What the holy son of Moses did we join for?"

We growled and groaned and cursed our luck. The sweat ran down under 
our pith helmets and soaked in a stream from under our armpits. We 
trudged to our camping-place along the shore. One or two Greek natives 
followed us about with melons to sell. Parched and choked with sand, 
we were only too glad to buy these water-melons for two or three 

The rind was green like a vegetable marrow, but the inside was yellow 
with pink and crimson pips--the colour of a Mediterranean sunset.

One day ashore on this accursed island and the diarrhoea set in. I 
never saw men suffer such awful stomach-pains before. The continual 
eating of melons to allay the blistering thirst helped the disease. 
Many men slept close to the latrines, too weak to crawl to and fro all 
night long. The sun blazed, and the flies in thousands of millions 
swarmed and irritated from early morning till sundown.

At night it was cold. The stars burned white-hot--a calm, fierce 

Hawk and I "kipped down" (slept) together on a sandy stretch 
overlooking the bay. We could see the green-and-red electric lights of 
the hospital ships waiting in the harbour--for us, perhaps . . .

The "graft" (work) was fearful. All day long we were at it: hauling up 
our equipment from the beach where it had been dumped ashore. Medical 
panniers, operating marquee, tents and tent-poles, cook-house dixies, 
picks and shovels, bully and biscuit boxes and a hundred-and-one 
articles necessary to the work of the Medical Corps in the field: all 
this had to be man-handled through the sand up to our camp about a 
mile away. And the sun blazed, and the flies pestered and stung and 
buzzed and fought with each other for the drops of sweat streaming 
down your face. How long should we be here? When were we going into 
action? . . . The suspense was brain-racking. The diarrhoea increased: 
everyone went down with it. Some got the ague shivers and some a touch 
of dysentery.

We became gloomy and bodily sick. We wanted to get into it--into 
action . . .

Anything would be better than this God-forsaken island. Why the 
dickens did they leave us moping here: working in the blazing heat, 
and crawling to the latrines in the chilly nights? For goodness' sake, 
let's get out of it! Let's get to work! . . . So the days dragged on.

The natives wore baggy trousers and coloured head-bands. They sat all 
day near our camp selling melons, tomatoes, very cheap and tasteless 
chocolates, raisins, figs and dates.

We used to go down to swim in the little bay-like semicircle of the 
harbour. The water was always warm and very salt. Here were tiny 
shoals of tiny fish. The water was clear and glassy. There were pinky 
sea-urchins with spikey spines which jabbed your feet. The sandy bed 
of the bay was all ribbed with ripples.

The island was humming and ticking like a watch with insect-noises: 
otherwise the deadly silence held. There were red-winged grasshoppers 
and great green-gray locust-looking crickets which whistled and 
"cricked" all night.

We had to fetch our water from the water-tank boats, about a mile and 
a half distant, and haul it up in a water-cart.

Gangs of natives were working under the military authorities. There 
were Greeks and Greek-Armenians, Turks and Ethiopians, Egyptians and 
half-breeds of all kinds from Malta and Gib. They were employed in 
making roads and clearing the ground for huts and camps.

And all the time we had no letters from home. We were actually 
marooned on Lemnos Island: as literally marooned on a barren desert 
isle as any buccaneer of the old Spanish galleon days. We went 
suddenly back to a savage life. We went down to bathe stark naked, 
with the sunset glowing orange on our sunburnt limbs. Here it was that 
Hawk proved himself a wonderfully good swimmer. He was lithe and 
supple and well-made--an extraordinary specimen of virile manhood--and 
he spent his fiftieth birthday on Lemnos!

One day came the order to pack up and man-handle all our stuff down to 
the beach ready for re-embarkation. At last we were on the move. We 
worked with a will now. The great day would soon dawn. Some of us 
would get "put out of mess," no doubt, but this waiting about to get 
killed was much worse than plunging into the thick of it.

August the 6th saw us steaming out at night towards the great unknown 
climax--the New Landing.



A pale pink sunrise burst across the eastern sky as our transport came 
steaming into the bay. The haze of early morning dusk still held, 
blurring the mainland and water in misty outlines.

Hawk and I had slept upon the deck. Now we got up and stretched our 
cramped limbs. Slowly we warped through the quiet seas.

You must understand that we knew not where we were. We had never heard 
of Suvla Bay--we didn't know what part of the Peninsula we had 
reached. The mystery of the adventure made it all the more exciting. 
It was to be "a new landing by the Xth Division"--that was all we 

Some of us had slept, and some had lain awake all night. Rapidly the 
pink sunrise swept behind the rugged mountains to the left, and was 
reflected in wobbling ripples in the bay.

We joined the host of battleships, monitors, and troopships standing 
out, and "stood by."

We could hear the rattle of machine-guns in the distant gloom beyond 
the streak of sandy shore. The decks were crowded with that same khaki 
crowd. We all stood eagerly watching and listening. The death-silence 
had come upon us. No one spoke. No one whistled.

We could see the lighters and small boats towing troops ashore. We saw 
the men scramble out, only to be blown to pieces by land mines as they 
waded to the beach. On the Lala Baba side we watched platoons and 
companies form up and march along in fours, all in step, as if they 
were on parade.

"In fours!" I exclaimed to Hawk, who was peering through my 

"Sheer murder," said Hawk.

No sooner had he spoken than a high explosive from the Turkish 
positions on the Sari Bair range came screaming over the Salt Lake: 

They lay there like a little group of dead beetles, and the wounded 
were crawling away like ants into the dead yellow grass and the sage 
bushes to die. A whole platoon was smashed.

It was not yet daylight. We could see the flicker of rifle-fire, and 
the crackle sounded first on one part of the bay, and then another. 
Among the dark rocks and bushes it looked as if people were striking 
thousands of matches.

Mechanical Death went steadily on. Four Turkish batteries on the 
Kislar Dargh were blown up one after the other by our battleships. We 
watched the thick rolling smoke of the explosions, and saw bits of 
wheels, and the arms and legs of gunners blown up in little black 
fragments against that pearl-pink sunrise.

The noise of Mechanical Battle went surging from one side of the bay 
to the other--it swept round suddenly with an angry rattle of maxims 
and the hard echoing crackle of rifle-fire.

Now and then our battle-ships crashed forth, and their shells went 
hurtling and screaming over the mountains to burst with a muffled roar 
somewhere out of sight.

Mechanical Death moved back and forth. It whistled and screamed and 
crashed. It spat fire, and unfolded puffs of grey and white and black 
smoke. It flashed tongues of livid flame, like some devilish ant-eater 
lapping up its insects . . . and the insects were the sons of men.

Mechanical Death, as we saw him at work, was hard and metallic, steel-
studded and shrapnel-toothed. Now and then he bristled with bayonets, 
and they glittered here and there in tiny groups, and charged up the 
rocks and through the bushes.

The noise increased. Mechanical Death worked first on our side, and 
then with the Turks. He led forward a squad, and the next instant 
mowed them down with a hail of lead. He galloped up a battery, 
unlimbered--and before the first shell could be rammed home Mechanical 
Death blew the whole lot up with a high explosive from a Turkish 
battery in the hills.

And so it went on hour after hour. Crackle, rattle and roar; scream, 
whistle and crash. We stood there on the deck watching men get killed. 
Now and then a shell came wailing and moaning across the bay, and 
dropped into the water with a great column of spray glittering in the 
early morning sunshine. A German Taube buzzed overhead; the hum-hum-
hum of the engine was very loud. She dropped several bombs, but none 
of them did much damage. The little yellow-skinned observation balloon 
floated above one of our battleships like a penny toy. The Turks had 
several shots at it, but missed it every time.

The incessant noise of battle grew more distant as our troops on shore 
advanced. It broke out like a bush-fire, and spread from one section 
to another. Mechanical Death pressed forward across the Salt Lake. It 
stormed the heights of the Kapanja Sirt on the one side, and took Lala 
Baba on the other. Puffs of smoke hung on the hills, and the shore was 
all wreathed in the smoke of rifle and machine-gun fire. A deadly 
conflict this--for one Turk on the hills was worth ten British down 
below on the Salt Lake.

There was no glory. Here was Death, sure enough--Mechanical Death run 
amok--but where was the glory?

Here was organised murder--but it was steel-cold! There was no hand-
to-hand glory. A mine dispersed you before you had set foot on dry 
land; or a high explosive removed your stomach, and left you a mangled 
heap of human flesh, instead of a medically certified, healthy human 

Mechanical Death wavered and fluctuated--but it kept going. If it 
slackened its murderous fire at one side of the bay, it was only to 
burst forth afresh upon the other.

We wondered how it was that we were still alive, when so many lay 
dead. Some were killed on the decks of the transports by shrapnel.

Our monitors crept close to the sandy shore, and poured out a deadly 
brood of Death.

The crack and crash was deafening, and it literally shook the 
air . . . it quivered like a jelly after each shot.

The fighting got more and more inland, and the rattle and crackle 
fainter and farther away. But we still watched, fascinated.

The little groups of men lay in exactly the same positions on the 
beach. That platoon by the side of Lala Baba lay in a black bunch--
stone dead. We could see our artillery teams galloping along like a 
team of performing fleas, taking up new positions behind Lala Baba. So 
this is war? Well, it's pretty awful! Wholesale murder . . . what's it 
all for? Wonder how long we shall last alive before Mechanical Death 
blows our brains out, or a leg off . . .

Queer thing, war! Didn't think it was quite like this! So mechanical 
and senseless.

And now came the time for us to land. A lighter came alongside, with a 
little red-bearded man in command--

"Remind you of any one?" I said to Hawk.

"Cap'n Kettle!"


He was exactly like Cutcliffe Hyne's famous "Kettle," except that he 
smoked a pipe. We huddled into the lighter, and hauled our stores down 
below. Some of us were "green about the gills," and some were trying 
to pretend we didn't care.

We watched the boat which landed just before us strike a mine and be 
blown to pieces. Encouraging sight . . . At last we reached the tiny 
cove, and the lighter let down a sort of tail-board on the sand.



One had his stomach blown out, and the other his chest blown in. The 
two bodies lay upon the sand as we stepped down.

The metallic rattle of the firing-line sounded far away. We man-
handled all our medical equipment and stores from the hold of the 
lighter to the beach.

We had orders to "fall in" the stretcher-bearers, and work in open 
formation to the firing-line.

The Kapanja Sirt runs right along one side of Suvla Bay. It is one 
wing of that horse-shoe formation of rugged mountains which hems in 
the Anafarta Ova and the Salt Lake.

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