List Of Contents | Contents of At Suvla Bay, by John Hargrave
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"Don't criticise yer officers," said some wit, quoting the Army 

The adjutant and a string of squads turned out, and we went back again 
to the spot where we had left the young officer the evening before.

The cook and an orderly man remained, and we heard from them the 
details of the mystery.

Early that morning they had formed up, and gone off under Lieutenant 
S--- along the mule track overlooking the Gulf of Saros. That was 
all. There was still hope, of course . . . but there wasn't a sign of 
them to be seen. The machine-gun section had seen them pass right 
along. Some officers had warned them not to go up, but they went and 
they never came back.

There were rumours that one of the N.C.O.'s of the party, a sergeant, 
had been seen lying on some rocks.

"Just riddled with bullets--riddled!"

The hours dragged on. I begged of the adjutant to let me go off along 
the ridge on my own to see if I could find any trace.

"It's too dangerous," he said. "If I thought there was half a chance 
I'd go with you, but we don't want to lose any more."

Those ten or twelve men went out of our lives completely. Days passed. 
There was no news. It was queer. It was queer when I called the roll 
next day--



"Cudworth!"--"Here, Sar'nt!"




I couldn't remember not to call his name out. It seemed queer that he 
was missing. It seemed quite hopeless now. Three or four days dragged 
on. Everything continued as usual. We went up past the place where we 
had left them, and there was no news, no sign. They just vanished. No 
one saw them again, and except for the "riddled" rumour of the poor 
old sergeant the whole thing was a blank.

We supposed that the young officer, coming fresh to the place, did not 
know where the British lines ended and the Turks' began, and he 
marched his squads into that bit of No Man's Land beyond the machine-
gun near "Jefferson's Post," and was either shot or taken prisoner.

It made the men heavy and sad-minded.

"Poor old Mellor--'e warn't a bad sort, was he!"

"Ah!--an' Bell, Sergeant Bell . . . riddled they say . . . some one 
seen 'm--artillery or some one!"

It hung over them like a cloud. The men talked of nothing else.

"Somebody's blundered," said one.

"It's a pity any'ow."

"It's a disgrace to the ambulance--losin' men like that."

And, also, it made the men nervous and unreliable. It was a shock.



It may be that I have never grown up properly. I'm a very poor hand at 
pretending I'm a "grown man."

Impressions of small queer things still stamp themselves with a clear 
kodak-click on my mind--an ivory-white mule's skull lying in the sand 
with green beetles running through the eye-holes . . . anything--
trivial, childlike details.

I remember reading an article in a magazine which stated that under 
fire, and more especially in a charge, a man moves in a whirl of 
excitement which blots out all the small realities around him, all the 
"local colour." He remembers nothing but a wild, mad rush, or the 
tense intensity of the danger he is in.

It is not so. The greater the danger and the more exciting the 
position the more intensely does the mind receive the imprint of tiny 
commonplace objects.

Memories of Egypt and the Mediterranean are far more a jumble of 
general effects of colour, sound and smell.

The closer we crept to the shores of Suvla Bay, and the deathbed of 
the Salt Lake, the more exact and vivid are the impressions; the one 
is like an impressionist sketch--blobs and dabs and great sloshy 
washes; but the memories of Pear-tree Gully, of the Kapanja Sirt, and 
Chocolate Hill are drawn in with a fine mapping pen and Indian ink--
like a Rackham fairy-book illustration--every blade of dead grass, 
every ripple of blue, every pink pebble; and towards the firing-line I 
could draw it now, every inch of the way up the hills with every stone 
and jagged rock in the right place.

Before sailing from England I had bought a little colour-box, one good 
sable brush, and a few H.B. pencils--these and a sketch-book which my 
father gave me I carried everywhere in my haversack. The pocket-book 
was specially made with paper which would take pencil, colour, crayon, 
ink or charcoal. I was always on the look out for sketches and notes. 
The cover bore the strange device--

                           JOHN HARGRAVE, 
                        32ND FIELD AMBULANCE.

printed in gilt which gradually wore off as time went on. Inside on 
the fly-leaf I had written--

     "IF FOUND, please return to

            Sgt. J. HARGRAVE, 32819, R.A.M.C. 
            32nd Field Ambulance, 
            X Division, Med. Exp. Force."

And on the opposite page I wrote--

     "IN CASE OF DEATH please post as soon as possible to

            GORDON HARGRAVE, 
               Cinderbarrow Cottage, 

I remember printing the word "DEATH," and wondering if the book would 
some day lie with my own dead body "somewhere in the Dardanelles." 
Printing that word in England before we started made the whole thing 
seem very real. Somehow up to then I hadn't realised that I might get 
killed quite easily. I hadn't troubled to think about it.

We moved our camp from "A" Beach farther along towards the Salt Lake. 
We moved several times. Always Hawk and I "hung together." Once he was 
very ill in the old dried-up water-course which wriggled down from the 
Kislar Dargh. He ate nothing for three days. I never saw anything like 
it before. He was as weak as a rat, and I know he came very near 
"pegging out." He felt it himself. I was sitting on the ground near 

"I may not pull through this, old fellow," says Hawk, with just a 
tear-glint under one eyelid. He lay under a shelf of rock, safe from 

"Come now, Fred," says I, "you're not going to snuff it yet."

"Weak as a rat--can't eat nothink, PRACtically . . . nothink; but see 
here, John,"--he seldom called me John--"if I do slip off the map, an' 
I feel PRACtically done for this time--if I SHOULD--you see that 
ration-bag"--he pointed to a little white bag bulging and tied up and 


"It's got some little things in it--for the kiddies at home--a little 
teapot I found up by the Turkish bivouac over there, and one or two 
more relics--I want 'em to have 'em--will you take care of it and send 
it home for me if you get out of this alive?"

Of course I promised to do this, but tried to cheer him up, and 
assured him he would soon pull round.

In a few days he threw off the fever and was about again.

Hawk and I had lived for some weeks in this overgrown water-course. It 
was a natural trench, and at one place Hawk had made a dug-out. He 
picked and shovelled right into the hard, sandy rock until there was 
quite a good-sized little cave about eight feet long and five deep.

The same sickness got me. It came over me quite suddenly. I was 
fearfully tired. Every limb ached, and, like all the others, I began 
to develop what I call the "stretcher-stoop." I just lay down in the 
ditch with a blanket and went to sleep. Hawk sat over me and brought 
me bovril, which we had "pinched" on Lemnos Island.

I felt absolutely dying, and I really wondered whether I should have 
enough strength to throw the sickness off as Hawk had. I gave him just 
the same sort of instructions about my notes and sketches as he had 
given me about his little ration-bag.

"Get 'em back to England if you can," I said; "you're the man I'd 
soonest trust here."

If Hawk hadn't looked after me and made me eat, I don't believe I 
should have lived. I used to lie there looking at the wild-rose 
tangles and the red hips; there were brambles, too, with poor, dried-
up blackberries. It reminded me of England. Little green lizards 
scuttled about, and great black centipedes crawled under my blanket. 
The sun was blazing at mid-day. Hawk used to rig me up an awning over 
the ditch with willow-stems and a waterproof ground-sheet.

Somehow you always thought yourself back to England. No matter what 
train of thought you went upon, it always worked its way by one thread 
or another to England. Mine did, anyway.

It was better to be up with the stretcher-squads in the firing line 
than lying there sick, and thinking those long, long thoughts.

This is how I would think--

"What a waste of life; what a waste . . . Christianity this; all part 
of civilisation; what's it all for? Queer thing this civilised 
Christianity . . . very queer. So this really IS war; see now: how 
does it feel? not much different to usual . . . But why? It's getting 
awfully sickening . . . plenty of excitement, too--plenty . . . too 
much, in fact; very easy to get killed any time here; plenty of men 
getting killed every minute over there; but it isn't really very 
exciting . . . not like I thought war was in England . . . England? 
Long way off, England; thousands of miles; they don't know I'm sick in 
England; wonder what they'd think to see me now; not a bad place, 
England, green trees and green grass . . . much better place than I 
thought it was; wonder how long this will hang on . . . I'd like to 
get back after it's finished here; I expect it's all going on just the 
same in England; people going about to offices in London; women 
dressing themselves up and shopping; and all that . . . This is a d--
-- place, this beastly peninsula--no green anywhere . . . just yellow 
sand and grey rocks and sage-coloured bushes, dead grass--even the 
thistles are all bleached and dead and rustling in the breeze like 
paper flowers . . .

"And we WANTED to get out here . . . Just eating our hearts out to get 
into it all, to get to work--and now . . . we're all sick of it . . . 
it's rotten, absolutely rotten; everything. It's a rotten war. Wonder 
what they are doing now at home . . ."



I shall never forget those two little figures coming into camp.

They were both trembling like aspen leaves. One had ginger hair, and a 
crop of ginger beard bristled on his chin. Their eyes were hollow and 
sunken, and glittered and roamed unmeaningly with the glare of 
insanity. They glanced with a horrible suspicion at their pals, and 
knew them not. The one with the ginger stubble muttered to himself. 
Their clothes were torn with brambles, and prickles from thorn-bushes 
still clung round their puttees. A pitiful sight. They tottered along, 
keeping close together and avoiding the others. An awful tiredness 
weighed upon them; they dragged themselves along. Their lips were 
cracked and swollen and dry. They had lost their helmets, and the sun 
had scorched and peeled the back of their necks. Their hair was matted 
and full of sand. But the fear which looked out of those glinting eyes 
was terrible to behold.

We gave them "Oxo," and the medical officer came and looked at them. 
They came down to our dried-up water-course and tried to sleep; but 
they were past sleep. They kept dozing off and waking up with a start 
and muttering--

". . . All gone . . . killed . . . where? where? No, no . . . No! . . 
. don't move . . . (mumble-mumble) . . . keep still . . . idiot! 
you'll get shot . . . can you see them? Eh? where? . . . he's dying, 
dying . . . stop the bleeding, man! He's dying . . . we're all dying . 
. . no water . . . drink . . ."

I've seen men, healthy, strong, hard-faced Irishmen, blown to shreds. 
I've helped to clear up the mess. I've trod on dead men's chests in 
the sand, and the ribs have bent in and the putrid gases of decay have 
burst through with a whhh-h-ff-f.

But I'd rather have to deal with the dead and dying than a case of 

I was just recovering from that attack of fever and dysentery, and 
these two were lying beside me; the one mumbling and the other panting 
in a fitful sleep.

When they were questioned they could give very little information.

"Where's Lieutenant S---?"

". . . Gone . . . they're all gone . . ."

"How far did you go with him?"

No answer.

"Where are the others?"

". . . Gone . . . they're all gone . . ."

"Are they killed?"

". . . Gone."

"Are any of the others alive?"

"We got away . . . they're lost . . . dead, I think."

"Did you come straight back--it's a week since you were lost?"

"It's days and days and long nights . . . couldn't move; couldn't move 
an inch, and poor old George dying under a rock . . . no cover; and 
they shot at us if we moved . . . we waved the stretchers when we 
found we'd got too far . . . too far we got . . . too far . . . much 
too far; shot at us . . ."

"What about the sergeant?"

"We got cut off . . . cut off . . . we tried to crawl away at night by 
rolling over and over down the hill, and creeping round bushes . . . 
always creeping an' crawling . . . but it took us two days and two 
nights to get away . . . crawling, creeping and crawling . . . an' 
they kep' firing at us . . ."

"No food . . . we chewed grass . . . sucked dead grass to get some 
spittle . . . an' sometimes we tried to eat grass to fill up a bit . . 
. no food . . . no water . . ."

They were complete wrecks. They couldn't keep their limbs still. They 
trembled and shook as they lay there.

Their ribs were standing out like skeletons, and their stomachs had 
sunken in. They were black with sunburn, and filthily dirty.

Gradually they got better. The glare of insanity became less obvious, 
but a certain haunted look never left them. They were broken men. 
Months afterwards they mumbled to themselves in the night-time.

Nolan, one of the seafaring men of my section who was with the lost 
squads, also returned, but he had not suffered so badly, or at any 
rate he had been able to stand the strain better.

It was about this time that we began to realise that the new landing 
had been a failure. It was becoming a stale-mate. It was like a clock 
with its hands stuck. The whole thing went ticking on every day, but 
there was no progress--nothing gained. And while we waited there the 
Turks brought up heavy guns and fresh troops on the hills. They 
consolidated their positions in a great semicircle all round us--and 
we just held the bay and the Salt Lake and the Kapanja Sirt.

So all this seemed sheer waste. Thousands of lives wasted--thousands 
of armless and legless cripples sent back--for nothing. The troops 
soon realised that it was now hopeless. You can't "kid" a great body 
of men for long. It became utterly sickening--the inactivity--the 
waiting--for nothing. And every day we lost men. Men were killed by 
snipers as they went up to the trenches. The Turkish snipers killed 
them when they went down to the wells for water.

The whole thing had lost impetus. It came to a standstill. It kept on 
"marking time," and nothing appeared to move it.

In the first three days of the landing it wanted but one thing to have 

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