Gallipoli Diary - August 1915

SUNDAY – 1/8/15 – This morning about 3 a.m. (I was sleeping under the gun) I was awakened by a fierce burst of rifle fire from our infantry trenches. I woke the detachment thinking that an attack was coming but the fire soon ceased. It seems that a party of Turks made their way right up to the parapets of our trenches and commenced throwing bombs but were driven back. The enemy shelled us a little during the morning but did no damage. Our 6" howitzers have been shelling constantly but slowly to-day.

MONDAY – 2/8/15 – We expect to make an advance on Wednesday. Several warships have been shelling Achi Baba to-day and I think that this is just a prelude to a heavy bombardment. A battery behind us opened fire this afternoon but the enemy evidently thought the fire came from us as they treated us to a few shells.

TUESDAY – 3/8/15 – Have been pretty bad with dysentry to-day, and spent a bad night last night. Registered a new target to-day firing 5 rounds. Warship this afternoon put a large number of percussion shells into Achi Baba. German aeroplane flew over us this morning and dropped a bomb a mile or two behind our position.

WEDNESDAY – 4/8/15 – Still bad with dysentry and have spent a miserable day. Several of my men are down with this same complaint and are worn to a shadow. No sign yet of our coming attack but everything points to an advance on our part in a very short time from now.

THURSDAY – 5/8/15 – Recovering from my illness. Warships and French and Brit. heavy field guns placed a good many shells on Achi Baba. Attack cannot now be long delayed. We must have a great superiority to the enemy in artillery and will probably smash things pretty much when we get going.

FRIDAY – 6/8/15 – Enemy fired a patch of scrub near us and shelled us when we went to put it out. One officer was wounded. I got a nasty graze on the thigh from shrapnel. Bombardment by our battery started this afternoon at 3.40. Infantry advanced at 3.50. Heavy batteries and warships had been firing on the enemy all day. Turks gave us a particularly trying time with high explosive shells but did not do a great deal of damage on account of our being well dug in. My gun put out of action through plunger seizing after firing 68 rounds. Casualties for the day – 2 officers wounded, 1 man killed and 1 wounded. Fitter endeavouring to fix my gun tonight as we resume the battle tomorrow. Infantry in centre advanced two trenches.

SATURDAY – 7/8/15 – Gun in order again this morning. Bombardment with field guns resumed about 9 a.m. My gun out of action again after firing 62 rounds and will have to be taken to ordnance. Last night above Anzac 10th and 11th Divns. made a successful landing and are now threatening the enemy's communications, having advanced 6 miles inland. Heavy firing going on at Gaba Tepe. Our Infantry in centre forced to retire from trenches they captured yesterday. My gun sent to ordnance department tonight.

SUNDAY – 8/8/15 – As we are short of officers I was sent forward to relieve our forward relieving officer. I am attached to the Inniskilling Fusiliers and hope that something may happen to test my ability to direct the fire of my battery. A bomb attack is being made on the "birdcage" by a party of Inskillings tonight.

MONDAY – 9/8/15 – Spent most of to-day in the trenches with the K.O.S.B.s where I could get an excellent view of the enemy's position. One of the Turkish snipers kept firing at my periscope but although he several times came very near and almost blinded me with dust from the bullets he did not get my instrument as I kept moving it about. Nothing startling occurred to-day. Bomb attack by Inniskillings last night was not particularly successful.

TUESDAY – 10/8/15 – observing “H” trenches all day to-day. Enemy shelled trench I was in this afternoon but did not damage beyond cutting the telephone wire and my linesman soon got that fixed. Discovered an enemy gun position but as he was not firing I could not tell whether he had a gun there or not. Had one of my periscopes smashed with an explosive rifle bullet but fortunately I had just allowed a K.O.S.B. to have a look through at the time, otherwise I should have got what he did – a badly cut face. Reconnoitring party from K.O.S.B's going out tonight to see if enemy trenches are occupied.

WEDNESDAY – 11/8/15 – Party which went out from K.O.S.B. last night did not return and must have been captured. I was relieved from the observation station to-day and am now back at the battery. The day has been very quiet and we are all speculating as to the next move and as to what is going on at Anzac.

THURSDAY – 12/8/15 – Quiet day with little or no excitement. Last night H.M.S. Scorpion with her searchlights found a party of Turks congregating on the beach and opened fire on them killing almost the whole party. To-day we received information to the effect that the enemy have eleven new aeroplanes and two airships probably Zeppelins. These will keep us thinking as we shall have to carefully mask our guns from observation from the air.

FRIDAY – 13/8/15 – Heavy rifle fire on French side this morning but I do not know what it was about. Received orders this afternoon to be ready to leave this position and embark for Anzac to join our own brigade any night now. Got one waggon away to the base tonight but still have our guns and. ammunition.

SATURDAY – 14/8/15 – Everything fairly quiet. We still have no orders to leave this position although we sent a good deal of our gear away this evening. I shall be glad when we reach Anzac as we shall then be with our own people. I have enjoyed the experience of fighting with the regulars but a chap cannot be blamed for preferring his own people where he has so many friends.

SUNDAY – 15/8/15 – Everything quiet to-day. Reinforcements from B.A.C. arrived this afternoon and were allotted to the various guns. I received three men bringing my total up to 12 gunners which was what I started with. Only 6 of my present detachment including myself landed with me.

MONDAY – 16/8/15 – Last night we had a call but fired only two rounds. Other batteries alongside us however evidently found that something was doing on their right targets as they all fired a large number of rounds. Very little firing has taken place to-day although the Turks have fired a few shells into the mullah [? mulga] on our right and have also shelled the artillery road.

TUESDAY – 17/8/15 – Things have been fairly quiet to-day but we have received orders to proceed to Gaba Tepe tonight. As soon as it is dark enough we begin to get our guns out and the teams will come up and shift them to the base from where we will embark.

WEDNESDAY – 18/8/15 – Last night we were taken off in pontoons with our guns and wagons to the “Queen Louise”. We were all aboard by 2 a.m. and immediately sailed for Gaba Tepe where we arrived at 3 a.m. and proceeded immediately to disembark and had all our vehicles landed by daylight. We had a short sleep during the morning and this afternoon the Sergts. came up to our new position where the brigade reinforcements were put to work to dig in. I expect it will be an all night job getting our guns into the new position as we are on the top of a very rough steep ridge. The guns will come round as soon as it is dark enough to move about safely.

THURSDAY – 19/8/15 – Had great trouble getting our guns into position last night and wound up by leaving two to be brought up this evening. Working nearly all last night; everybody tired out. Digging in all day. Guns brought up this evening. No.3 fired few rounds this afternoon to register a target.

FRIDAY – 20/8/15 – Digging in and improving gun pits all day. If we work hard it is possible to conceal our guns so well in this position that the enemy will have a great job to find us with his artillery. It will be a bit of a change to be able to fire without being shelled with high explosive and Jack Johnsons.

SATURDAY – 21/8/15 – Improving gun pits and carrying ammunition all morning. Action this afternoon at 2.30. Fired 80 rounds, 40 of which were high explosive fired on a trench. About 5 o'clock this evening a party of about 5000 Turkish reinforcements were discovered coming to the assistance of their first line. Nearly every gun on this flank found them and gave them a lively time for over half an hour and must have inflicted great damage. We took three trenches.

SUNDAY – 22/8/15 – Standing by all day but things fairly quiet. Many prisoners and wounded passing from infantry trenches to-day. In action this afternoon. Fired 5 rounds.

MONDAY – 23/8/15 – Standing by all day but nothing has happened up till now. (7 p.m.) No.3 gun has just opened fire on something at 5200 but I do not know what he is firing at. Life is more pleasant here than down at Cape Helles but things are not quite so exciting and the men can walk about on our position quite freely without danger of being shelled.

TUESDAY – 24/8/15 – Standing by all day waiting for something to turn up but nothing has happened. We are losing men through sickness each day but up till now since coming to this position we have not lost a man through the fire of the enemy.

WEDNESDAY – 25/8/15 – We are still as per usual. This is a good position from which to spend the winter if it is intended that we should stay here. Fired on small parties of the enemy in Hut Valley and ammunition trench also pack mules and troops on Anafarta road.

THURSDAY – 26/8/15 – No. 1 and 2 guns received orders to proceed out on left and dig in only about 700 yards from the enemy's trenches in readiness for a big battle tomorrow. The Sergts., myself and Sergt. Kyne with the Major went out after dinner and chose the position, bringing the men along at dusk to dig in. If we are discovered we will get a terrible time so we must take every care to conceal our guns which we expect up about midnight.

FRIDAY – 27/8/15 – Last night guns and ammunition were in pits by 3 a.m. when the men turned in, a slight rain falling for about an hour and making sleep unpleasant as we had no cover. Registered targets this morning and fired 123 rounds during bombardment this afternoon and evening. No.1 gun out of action through plunger seizing, and run back under cover after dark, a new plunger being sent for. I was acting as section officer. The section was heavily shelled in the late afternoon by a Turkish battery which discovered us, but we managed to keep going until our job was finished.

SATURDAY – 28/8/15 – No. 2 gun opened fire several times during the day but were so heavily shelled each time that they had to stop and take cover. About 5 p.m. the enemy made our position a perfect Hell and we could do nothing but crouch in the shelter trenches praying under our breath that no high explosive would come in amongst us and outwardly pretending to one another that we thought the whole business a great joke. No.2 had a direct hit which damaged shield, rocking bar and telescope sight and elevating gear, but was not put entirely out of action. A high explosive penetrated one of our ammunition pits causing the explosion of 5 shells. The marvel is that the whole of the ammunition in the pit did not blow up.

Record of Robert being awarded the Military Cross for his actions in connection with this

 

SUNDAY – 29/8/15 – Easy day to-day as both guns out of action. Men resting and clearing up position. Major Standish and Lieut. Woods selected new position for battery. Both guns repaired and reported ready for action.

MONDAY – 30/8/15 – Sergt. went to new position with Mr Woods to mark out gun pits. Men resting all day as we shall be working from 7.30 p.m. until day-light. Pits will be dug in the sand amongst the low sandhills on the beach and a great deal of work will be necessary to so build the pits and communication trenches that the sand wi1l not fall in when the guns are discharged.

TUESDAY – 31/8/15 – Working all last night until 4 a.m. this morning. We had to be off the position and out of sight before daylight in order that the enemy might not see what we were doing. Informed last night that I have been promoted to 2nd Lieut. so this morning instead of returning to Rt. Secn. position I handed over the charge to Sergt. Kyne and returned with the other officers to Lt. Secns. gully, had breakfast at officers' mess where I will henceforth have all my meals.

French guns

Commentary

My grandfather's faith in his commanders ("We must have a great superiority to the enemy in artillery and will probably smash things pretty much when we get going.") makes me so sad. The attack at Helles saw the Allied forces charge toward s "40,000 well-entrenched and reinforced Turks". The Allies ran short of ammunition and were slaughtered.

By the time Robert was sent to Anzac Cove, the British commander had a new objective: Hill 60. This operation was at least successful, although at great cost.

Background

August 8 was New Zealand's worst day on Gallipoli, with 297 killed and three dying of wounds.

Glossary

B.A.C.: Brigade Artillery Column