Read CHAPTER VII - THE LIMIT of With Manchesters in the East , free online book, by Gerald B. Hurst, on ReadCentral.com.

In the balmy days of late October it was still possible to enjoy life on Gallipoli. The ceaseless vigil of the trenches was cheered by contact with the bravest men I have known. The dirt and drudgery of rest bivouacs were assuaged by bathing, and by jolly “missing word competitions” and “sing-songs,” as well as our courses of lectures and discussions on history, politics, the War, and the England to arise after the War.

Talk gravitated again and again to the tragedy of the 4th June. I have a record of one such symposium, that illuminates the infinite variety of human nature. “Franklin says that he and Staveacre could see in the far forefront of the battle Sergeant Marvin engage four Turks simultaneously with his bayonet till shot dead. But X. boggled at going over the parapet. He was told: ‘You are a disgrace to the Manchester Regiment.’ He replied: ‘I shall never let that be said of me,’ rose to climb over, and was blown to bits by a shell. Whitley carried a badly wounded man a long way under fire. Creery did splendidly.” It may be added that Whitley’s act was afterwards recognised by an award of the Military Cross. He became Staff Captain at Ismailia. W.F. Creery joined the Connaught Rangers and was mentioned in dispatches.

Another hero of the men’s reminiscences was Captain A.H. Tinker. One night during the first month of the campaign a working party had lost itself on the moor. It was so dark that they ran great risk of straying into the enemy’s lines a fate that befell a number of our men at this period in that broken country. In spite of the proximity of the Turks, Tinker left the trenches and boldly sought the men himself, calling out loudly for them. They heard him and made their way back.

The days of initiative and enterprise had, however, passed. The wind and grit gave the strongest of us sore throats and high temperatures, and I gradually joined the crowded ranks of sick men “on light duty only.” At the beginning of November we moved to the northern extremity of the Allies’ line across the Peninsula, and here I saw the last phase of our warfare on Gallipoli. Sir Ian Hamilton had gone. All ideas of a renewed offensive had disappeared. After the 24th October the Turks enjoyed direct communication with Germany, and at Cape Helles there was no sign of revived strategy or rejuvenated tactics. Our work was simply to carry on and hold out. Some of the other Divisions took steps to guard their men against the menace of a “Crimean winter” by preparing sheltered quarters. Great flights of geese used to fly in V-shaped formations high over our heads on their way from Russia to Egypt. They were augurs of our own eventual migration.

The new position of the Battalion was on Fusilier Bluff, a mile to the west of the ruins of Krithia. The left ran straight down to the sea, where monitors used to shell the enemy’s positions, while destroyers watched the flank, and at night played flashlights on the ravine that divided us from the next bluff, where the Turks were entrenched. This ground had been won in the brilliant British advance of the 28th June. The Turkish line was close to ours, and our men were always on the strain. Incidents were common. On the 2nd November a Turk crawled along the beach with a white flag, and surrendered. At night the Turks built up in front of their parapet, and two were shot by Sergeant Stanton. One of our men was killed and two were wounded. On the 3rd, another man was killed by a bomb, while the daily drain of sickness went on unabated. General Elliott, at this period our Brigadier, was an energetic pioneer of new methods and more vigorous tactics. He had the Mule Saps improved.

Even, however, in the secluded Headquarters at Bruce’s Ravine I could not keep my health, and Hummel’s art was unavailing.

The average soldier on Gallipoli broke down after a month or two. Comparatively few endured more than three months. Of our officers only Scott (the Quartermaster) and Fawcus were on the Peninsula from start to finish, though Colonel Canning, Higham and Chadwick had almost as fine a record. Few of the sick came back to Turkey.

Some, like my first batman Dinsdale, died in hospital at Alexandria or in Malta. Many went to England and passed into other units. Others rejoined later in Egypt. Somehow, in peace times we had never imagined that the Battalion could be so dispersed and broken.

My departure from Gallipoli is perhaps worth a description. Would that the wounded heroes of the landing could have received a hundredth part of the same care!

I left Border Ravine at six in the evening of the 5th November 1915, with a high temperature, and feeling very ill. I walked down to the 1st Field Ambulance Dressing Station in “Y” Ravine, where Captain Fitzgerald, R.A.M.C., directed me on to the base of that Ambulance in Gully Ravine. Here my servant, Hawkins, left me, and two medical orderlies carried my traps. Alas, I left behind me a much-prized Turkish copper basin and bayonet, spoils of war, which I never saw again. We walked two miles along the rough and dusky beach, a full tide washing over our feet and throwing many dead mules high upon the pebbles. At the station I got a cup of hot milk, and spent the night on a stretcher. Next morning my case was diagnosed as one of fever and swollen glands, by Captain John Morley, R.A.M.C., most brilliant of surgeons, and at ten o’clock (cherishing a label marked “Base”) I was swirled off in a motor ambulance to N Stationary Hospital above the beach known as Lancashire Landing since its glorious capture by the Lancashire Fusiliers on the 25th April. At 4.15 in the afternoon we motored off once more and boarded a steam launch, whence we transshipped to an uncomfortable lighter. At 6.30, in the dark, we were lifted by a crane into the P. & O. hospital ship Delta, where 500 sick and wounded were being collected. Dinner consisted of bread and milk only for many of us, but we revelled in the luxury of bed and bath. Next morning I sat on the sunny side of the deck. The shady side, chilly in the November air, looked out upon Cape Helles, with Achi Baba rising straight behind it, and to the left upon the grey succession of landing-places, enshrined in so many English hearts.

We sailed the next morning, and thus avoided the misery of the great November blizzard on the Peninsula.

The Division remained on the Peninsula until the 29th December. Dysentery abated and the flies vanished, but gale and storm carried on the strain, and frostbite was added to the men’s trials. The Turks seem to have much increased their supply of munitions, and the loss of life continued day by day. “Asiatic Annie” and other guns across the straits showed renewed activity. A mine explosion on the 4th December killed one of our men and injured eight. Two popular privates, Hancock and Lee, were killed on Christmas Day. One singular innovation was the Turkish practice of shooting steel-headed darts from their aeroplanes. Their chance of striking any man was, luckily, very small.

Nothing daunted the spirit of East Lancashire. Our men held concerts to the very last, and the football eleven survived three rounds of an Army Corps competition, losing their tie in the fourth round on a field in which shells burst repeatedly to the discomfort of the players. Captains J.F. Farrow, F. Hayes and E. Townson returned to strengthen the small band of officers, while R.J.R. Baker, who had been intercepted on his way out and sent to Suvla Bay, was released for service with us.