List Of Contents | Contents of At Suvla Bay, by John Hargrave
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our pith helmets reeking wet, with the puggaree all beaded with dew-
drops. We toiled up and up the ridges and gullies of the Kislar Dargh 
and the Kapanja Sirt slowly, like a little column of ants going out to 
bring in the ant eggs.

Often we had to wait while the Indian transport came down from the 
hill-track before we could proceed, and we always came upon the 
Engineers' field-telegraph wires on the ground. I would shout "Wire!" 
over my shoulder, and the shout "Wire! . . . Wire! . . . Wire!" went 
down the line from squad to squad.

From the old Turkish well I led my stretcher-squads past the gun of 
the Field Artillery (mounted quite near our hospital tents) along a 
track which ran past a patch of dry yellow grass and dead thistles--
here among the prickly plants and sage-bushes grew a white flower--
pure and sweet-scented--something like a flag--a "holy flower" among 
the dead and scorched-up yellow ochre blades and the khaki and dull 
grey-greens of thorns. We went along this track, past the dead sniper 
which Hawk and I had so carefully stalked. Near by, hidden by bushes 
and rank willow thickets lay a dozen more dead Turks, swollen, fly-
blown and stinking in the broiling sun. We hurried on past the Turkish 
bivouacs--many of the relics had been picked up by the British Tommies 
since last I saw the place: the tobacco had all gone--many of the 
shirts and overcoats which had been lying about had disappeared--the 
place had been thoroughly ransacked. We trudged past the wooden cross 
of our dead comrade and we were silent.

Indeed, throughout those first three days--Saturday, Sunday and 
Monday--when the British and Turks grappled to and fro and flung 
shrapnel at each other incessantly; when the fighting line swayed and 
bent, sometimes pushing back the Turks, sometimes bending in the 
British; when the fate of the whole undertaking still hung in the 
balance; when what became a semi-failure might have been a staggering 
success: in those days the death-silence fell upon us all.

No one whistled those rag-time tunes; no one tried to make jokes, 
except the very timid, and they giggled nervously at their own.

No one spoke unless it was quite necessary. Each man you passed asked 
you the vital question: "Any water?"

For a moment as he asks his eyes glitter witha gleam of hope--when you 
shake your head he simply trudges on over the rocks and scrub with the 
same fatigued and sullen dullness which we all suffered.

Often you asked the same question yourself with parched and burning 

One after another we came upon the wounded. Here a man dragging a 
broken leg along with him. Here a man holding his fractured fore-arm 
and running towards us. Sometimes the pitiful cry, faint and full of 
agony: "Stretchers! Stretcher-bearers!" away in some densely overgrown 
defile swept with bullets and shrapnel.

And so at last all my squads had turned back with stretchers loaded 
with men and pieces of men. I went on alone--a lonely figure wandering 
about the mountains, looking and listening for the wounded.

I came now upon a party of Engineers at work making a road. They were 
working with pick-axe and spade--clearing away bush and rocks.

"Any water?" they asked.

I shook my head.

"Any wounded?" I said.

"Some down there, they say," said a red-faced man.

"Damn rotten job that," muttered another, as I went on.

"Better keep well over in the bushes," shouted the red-faced man. 
"They've got this bit of light-coloured ground marked--you're almost 
sure ter git plugged."

"Thanks!" I called back, and broke off to my left among the sage and 
thistle and thorn.

I went now downhill into an overgrown water-course (very much like the 
one in which I used to sleep and eat away back by the artillery big 
gun). Here were willows and brambles with ripe blackberries, and wild-
rose bushes with scarlet hips. "Just like England!" I thought.

And then, as I crossed the little dry-bed stream and came out upon a 
sandy spit of rising ground: "Z-z-ipp! Ping!"--just by my left arm. 
The bullet struck a ledge of white rock with the now familiar metallic 

I went on moving quickly to get behind a thorn-bush--the only cover 
near at hand. Here, at any rate, I should be out of sight.



I could hear the report of the rifle. I lay flat on my stomach, 
grovelled my face into the sandy soil and lay like a snake and as 
still as a tortoise.

I waited for about ten minutes. It seemed an hour, at least, to me. 
The sniper did not shoot again. In front of my thorn-bush was an open 
space of pale yellow grass, with no cover at all. I crawled towards 
the left flank and tried to creep slowly away. I moved like the hands 
of a clock--so slowly; about an inch at a time, pushing forward like a 
reptile on my stomach, propelling myself only by digging my toes into 
the earth. My arms I kept stiff by my side, my head well down.

But the sniper away behind that little pear-tree (which stood at the 
far end of the open space) had an eagle eye.

"Ping! z-z-pp! ping!"

I lay very still for a long time and then crept slowly back to my 

I tried the right flank, but with the same effect. And now he began 
shooting through my thorn-bush on the chance of hitting me.

Behind me was a dense undergrowth of thorn, wild-rose bramble, 
thistle, willow and sage.

I turned about and crawled through this tangle, until at last I came 
out, scratched and dishevelled and sweating, into the old water-

The firing-line was only a few hundred yards away, and the bullets 
from a Turkish maxim went wailing over my head, dropping far over by 
the Engineers whom I had passed.

I wanted to find those wounded, and I wanted to get past that open 
space, and I wanted above all to dodge that sniper. The old scouting 
instincts of the primitive man came calling me to try my skill against 
the skill of the Turk. I sat there wiping away blood from the 
scratches and sweat from my forehead and trying to think of a way 

I looked at the mountains on my left--the lower ridge of the Kapanja 
Sirt--and saw how the water-course went up and up and in and out, and 
I thought if I kept low and crawled round in this ditch I should come 
out at last close behind the firing-line, and then I could get in 
touch with the trenches. I could hear the machine-gun of the M--'s 
rattling and spitting.

I began crawling along the water-course. I had only gone three yards 
or so, and turned a bend, when I came suddenly upon two wounded men. 
Both quite young--one merely a boy. He had a bad shrapnel wound 
through his boot, crushing the toes of his right foot. The other lay 
groaning upon his back--with a very bad shrapnel wound in his left 
arm. The arm was broken.

The boy sat up and grinned when he saw me.

"What's up?" asked his pal.

"Red Cross man," says the boy; and then: "Any water?"

"Not a drop, mate," said I. "Been wounded long?"

"Since yesterday evening," says the boy.

"Been here all that time?" I asked. (It was now mid-afternoon.)

"Yes: couldn't get away"--and he pointed to his foot.

" 'E carn't move--it's 'is arm. We crawled 'ere."

"I'll be back soon with stretchers and bandages," I said, and went 
quickly back along the water-course and then past the Engineers.

"Found 'em?" they asked.

"Yes: getting stretchers up now," said I. "Awful stink here! Found any 
dead?" I asked.

"Yes, there's one or two round here. We buried one over there 
yesterday: 'e fell ter bits when we moved 'im."

I went on. Soon I was back in the ditch beside the wounded men. I had 
successfully dodged the sniper by following along the bottom of the 
bed of the stream. With me I brought two stretcher-squads, and they 
had a haversack containing, as I thought, splints and bandages. But 
when I opened it, it had only some field dressings in it and some 
iodine ampoules.

I soon found that the man's arm was not only septic, but broken and 

"Got a pair of scissors?" I asked.

One man had a pair of nail-scissors, and with this very awkward 
instrument I proceeded to operate. It was a terrible gash. His sleeve 
was soaked in blood. I cut it away, and his shirt also.

I broke an iodine phial and poured the yellow chemical into his great 
gaping wound. Actually his flesh stunk: it was going bad.

"Is it broke?" he asked.

"Be all right in a few minutes; nothing much." I lied to him.

"Not broke then?"

"Bit bent; be all right."

With the nail-scissors I cut great chunks of his arm out, and all this 
flesh was gangrenous, and mortification was rapidly spreading. My 
fingers were soaked in blood and iodine.

I cut away a piece of muscle which stunk like bad meat.

"Can you feel that?" I asked.

"Feel what?" he murmured.

"I thought that might hurt. I was cutting your sleeve away, that's 

I cut out all the bad flesh, almost to the broken bones. I filled up 
the jagged hole with another iodine ampoule. I plugged the opening 
with double-cyanide gauze, and put on an antiseptic pad.

"Splints?" I asked.

"Haven't any."

So I used the helve of an entrenching-tool and the stalks of the 
willow undergrowth.

I set his arm straight and bandaged it tightly and fixed it absolutely 
immovably. Then we got him on a stretcher, and they carried him three 
and a half miles to our ambulance tents. But I'm afraid that arm had 
to come off. I never heard of him again.

The other fellow was cheerful enough, and only set his teeth and drew 
his breath when I cut off his boot with a jack-knife. Wonderful 
endurance some of these young fellows have. There's hope for England 




     The native only needs a drum, 
     On which to thump his dusky thumb--

     But WE--the Royal Engineers, 
     Must needs have carts and pontoon-piers; 
     Hundreds of miles of copper-wire, 
     Fitted on poles to make it higher. 
     Hundreds of sappers lay it down, 
     And stick the poles up like a town. 
     By a wonderful system of dashes and dots, 
     Safe from the Turkish sniper's shots-- 
     We have, as you see, a marvellous trick, 
     Of sending messages double-quick. 
     You can't deny it's a great erection, 
     Done by the 3rd Field Telegraph Section; 
     But somewhere-- 

     The native merely thumps his drum, 
     He thumps it boldly, thus--"Tum! Tum!"

                        J. H. 
                (Sailing for Salonika.)

Kangaroo Beach was where the Australian bridge-building section had 
their stores and dug-outs.

It was one muddle and confusion of water-tanks, pier-planks, pontoons, 
huge piles of bully-beef, biscuit and jam boxes. Here we came each 
evening with the water-cart to get our supply of water, and here the 
water-carts of every unit came down each evening and stood in a row 
and waited their turn. The water was pumped from the water-tank boats 
to the tank on shore.

The water-tank boats brought it from Alexandria. It was filthy water, 
full of dirt, and very brackish to taste. Also it was warm. During the 
two months at Suvla Bay I never tasted a drop of cold water--it was 
always sickly lukewarm, sun-stewed.

All day long high explosives used to sing and burst--sometimes killing 
and wounding men, sometimes blowing up the bully-beef and biscuits, 
sometimes falling with a hiss and a column of white spray into the 
sea. It was here that the field-telegraph of the Royal Engineers 
became a tangled spider's web of wires and cross wires. They added 
wires and branch wires every day, and stuck them up on thin poles. 
Here you could see the Engineers in shirt and shorts trying to find a 
disconnection, or carrying a huge reel of wire. Wooden shanties sprang 
up where dug-outs had been a day or so before. Piers began to crawl 
out into the bay, adding a leg and trestle and pontoon every hour. 
Near Kangaroo Beach was the camp of the Indians, and here you could 
see the dusky ones praying on prayer mats and cooking rice and 
"chupatties" (sort of oatcake-pancakes).

Here they were laying a light rail from the beach up with trucks for 
carrying shells and parts of big guns.

Here was the field post-office with sacks and sacks of letters and 
parcels. Some of the parcels were burst and unaddressed; a pair of 
socks or a mouldy home-made cake squashed in a cardboard box--
sometimes nothing but the brown paper, card box and string, an empty 
shell--the contents having disappeared. What happened to all the 
parcels which never got to the Dardanelles no one knows, but those 
which did arrive were rifled and lost and stolen. Parcels containing 
cigarettes had a way of not getting delivered, and cakes and sweets 
often fell out mysteriously on the way from England.



Things became jumbled.

The continual working up to the firing-line and the awful labour of 
carrying heavy men back to our dressing station: it went on. We got 
used to being always tired, and having only an hour or two of sleep. 
It was log-heavy, dreamless sleep . . . sheer nothingness. Just as 
tired when you were wakened in the early hours by a sleepy, grumbling 
guard. And then going round finding the men and wakening them up and 
getting them on parade. Every day the same . . . late into the night.

Then came the disappearance of a certain section of our ambulance and 
the loss of an officer.

This particular young lieutenant was left on Lemnos sick. He really 
was very sick indeed. He recovered to some extent of the fever, and 
joined us one day at Suvla. This was in the Old Dry Water-course 
period, when Hawk and I lived in the bush-grown ditch.

Officers, N.C.O.'s, and men were tired out with overwork. This young 
officer came up to the Kapanja Sirt to take over the next spell of 

I remember him now, pale and sickly, with the fever still hanging on 
him, and dark, sunken eyes. He spoke in a dull, lifeless way.

"Do you think you'll be all right?" asked the adjutant.

"Yes, I think so," he answered.

"Well, just stick here and send down the wounded as you find them. 
Don't go any farther along; it's too dangerous up there--you 

"All right, sir."

It was only a stroke of luck that I didn't stay with him and his 

"You'd better come down with me, sergeant," says the adjutant.

Next day the news spread in that mysterious way which has always 
puzzled me. It spread as news does spread in the wild and desolate 
regions of the earth.

". . . lost . . . all the lot . . ."

"Who is?"

"Up there . . . Lieutenant S--- and the squads . . ."


"Just heard--that wounded fellow over there on the stretcher . . . 
they went out early this morning, and they've gone--no sign, never 
came back at all--"

" 'E warn't fit ter take charge . . . 'e was ill, you could see."

"Nice thing ter do. The old man'll go ravin' mad."

"It was a ravin' mad thing to put the poor feller in charge . . . "

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