Gallipoli Diary - June 1915

TUESDAY – 1/6/15 – Still nothing doing in the way of action. Dug a special tunnel for the high explosive shells when they arrive. Each day we improve our trenches so as to make them as strong as possible for the day when the big attack comes. Discovered a new dish to-day. Recipe – biscuits soaked overnight, worked into a porridge, mixed with jam and fried in bacon fat. Pronounced good by the boys who are each going to make some. Tonight we expect an attack and are sleeping at the gun. We had orders to stand by just at dusk when the Turks opened fire with rifles but the rifle fire died away and no attack was made.

WEDNESDAY – 2/6/15 – A slow day to-day, although we fired 1 round in the afternoon to check our lines. Rumours that Austria has offered to come to terms with Italy but no official confirmation. More ammunition brought up tonight. All batteries about us are also getting heavy stocks of ammunition and evidently the big bombardment will not be long delayed. Some think it will take place tomorrow (King's birthday) but I do not think this will be so as I think the Turks would expect something on such a day and might anticipate it.

THURSDAY – 3/6/15 – Nothing doing all day except firing one round Liddite at a sap the Turks are making. News came this evening of our Lieut's death from wounds received on 17th May. Tonight the Turks attempted an advance about 10 p.m. but were repelled. We were in action for about half an hour and fired 11 rounds. Expect a big day tomorrow. One of my gunners taken to hospital tonight suffering from Pyreria whatever that may be. Am taking the guard of the man who took him to the hospital.

FRIDAY – 4/6/15 – 10.10 a.m. – Are starting the bombardment of Achi Baba with the field guns at 11.5 a.m. Some of the big howitzers have started firing already. In all about 200 guns will take part in the battle and the infantry are going to advance at 12 noon. From the cliffs we can see the warships coming at full speed to do their bit.

SATURDAY – 5/6/15 – 9 a.m. In action all day yesterday and all last night until 6 o’clock this morning. Fired 239 rounds on A gun or over 950 rounds for the battery. Shells fired at intervals of 15 mins, all night. Noise of battle yesterday and to-day was terrific and many of the men were quite deaf by the evening. We appear from here to have gained very little ground although our •artillery fire must have inflicted very heavy loss on the Turks. Strangely enough the enemies artillery fire was feeble, although he is known to be possessed of large numbers of guns. We all expected our battery to be singled out for special attention, as the Turks had our range to a yard, but strangely enough not a shell fell on us the whole day long. I acted as section officer as we are short owing to casualties. We are now standing by ready to fire on the word. Rifle fire has never ceased since 11 a.m. yesterday. 8 p.m. Things pretty quiet to-day. Fired only three rounds. We suffered large losses of infantry last night and yesterday and our attack on this flank failed. Expect strong counterattack by Turks tonight.

SUNDAY – 6/6/15 – In action again at 4 a.m. today and fired until 6 a.m. Standing by all day. Fired several times to prevent Turks from making moves. This evening my gun fired several rounds on a communication trench through which the Turks were seen to be bringing up reinforcements. We prevented their doing this and our shooting was so accurate and fast that we were complimented by the Major. To-day we lost a gunner killed. He was buried tonight behind our position. The affair seemed very impressive to me. The gunners were standing by awaiting an attack, and those who could be spared stole away and knelt in the scrub by the lonely grave so as not to draw the Turk's fire. Truly "in the midst of life we are in death."

MONDAY – Orders issued that Artillery must not fire unless the Turks attack. Our position is now strong and we desire the enemy to attack in order that we may inflict severe losses on him. Last night we had two calls firing in all about 24 rounds or about 80 rounds for the battery. Flies are now becoming very troublesome and I am afraid that they will bring us disease before long. We try to eliminate the danger as much as possible by being clean in our habits and carefully covering our foodstuffs but we are almost certain to get disease of one sort or another as the Turks are anything but clean and flies carry the infection. Besides this, the dead lie about sometimes for days before they can possibly be buried and this adds to the danger. Regts. of K.O.S.B. now taking place of Sikhs who were withdrawn.

TUESDAY – 8/6/15 – Very slack day. In fact it is the quietest we have had since landing. I do not think that more than 50 shells have been fired by either side all day. Sleeping in my dug-out tonight for the first time for about a week.. This last few nights I have been lying down in my overcoat and snatching a little sleep "with one eye open" as it were, expecting a call any minute.

WEDNESDAY – 9/6/15 – A fairly slow day. Communication trench started to-day from A. Gun to road at top of gully for purpose of bringing up ammunition while under fire. It is probably a good idea but personally I think it will attract too much attention from the Turks and bring down some “Jack Johnstons” or “Coalboxes” on our cheerful selves. This afternoon Turks started a move of some sort along one of their communication trenches so we shelled them and seemed to do some damage. Fired 12 rounds.

THURSDAY – 10/6/15 – Standing by most of the day preventing Turks from using communication trenches. Whenever they made a move we dropped a shell or two on them. Fired 19 rounds. Turkish prisoners say that the Turks would surrender but for the Germans. Reported sinking of 8 enemy transports in Sea of Marmora. Turks bombarded us with 6 “coalboxes” just at tea time but although our hearts were in our mouths all the time no damage was done. These shells make a great hole in the ground and cause a great deal of black smoke which takes about 30 secs. to clear.

FRIDAY – 11/6/15 – Nothing much doing to-day. No. 2 gun fired at a ravine at intervals during the night. Turks bombarded with high explosive two motor ambulance waggons stationed about a mile behind our position but did not appear to do much damage, as the motors moved off as soon as the bombardment ceased. Our reinforcements from N.Z. Base Camp at Kapa Tepe arrived tonight and will be allotted to the various subsections.

SATURDAY – 12/6/15 – Still nothing doing. General orders to-day practically advise us not to get downhearted as large reinforcements are coming and the people at home appreciate our work. We know that we are fighting against heavy odds but our tails are not down by any means as each man of us feels himself very much superior to any Turks.

SATURDAY – 13/6/15 – General orders to-day give minute instructions re minimising the effect of the asphyxiating gas which the Turks are being daily expected to use particularly as the conditions of the last few days have been very favourable to its use, the wind blowing from the enemy to us almost continually for a week past.

MONDAY – 14/6/15 – Had two or three alarms last night but did not shoot. We have a new game. Every night at sunset we have discovered masses of Turks leave the trenches and proceed to a cemetery near Kritia for the purpose of praying to Allah. Tonight at sunset we are going to shell this place and trust to fortune to bag a few Turks.

TUESDAY – 15/6/15 – Heavy shells from Asia have been falling on the side of the gully opposite to us. We can see the flash of the guns that fires them but the range is too great for us. I suppose some of the heavy artillery nearer the base will get on to it. 7.30. The sun is just setting so we are standing by. It is setting for the last time on some of the Turks who are now wending their way up the ravine. A large number of Ghurkas are reported to have landed to-day with other reinforcements.

WEDNESDAY – 16/6/15 – Things still at a standstill. Heavy reinforcements are reported to be arriving at the base. I expect we will not have to wait long now before there is something doing. The Turks are at this moment 7.5 p.m. shelling the battery (368) alongside us with high explosive and some of the bits are coming this way. In a few minutes we will open fire in the ravine through which the Turks go to pray to Allah.

THURSDAY – 17/6/15 – Same old report – “Nothin’ doin’ ”. I half expected a mail tonight but none came. Tomorrow is Centenary of Waterloo. I wonder if there will be for us another Waterloo either here or in France. Turks have evidently got a lot more ammunition to throw away as they have started their sunset shelling again. It is a peculiar thing that every now and again they take it into their heads to drop shells all round just about sunset.

FRIDAY – 18/6/15 – Things very quiet all day until about 6 o'clock this evening when the Turks made a determined attack to capture our infantry trenches. Battle raged fiercely for about 2 ½ hrs. and rifle and artillery fire was kept up all night. Our infantry lost a trench on the left but captured two trenches in the centre. Fired 22 rounds.

SATURDAY – 19/6/15 – This morning at 3 a.m. the K.O.S.B’s recaptured the trench which they lost last night. We stood by but did not open fire. Things comparatively quiet to-day although Turks shelled all our positions this afternoon doing very little damage. Registered a target at 4 p.m. firing 3 rounds. Reports say that H.M.S. Lion and Tiger have been sunk in the North Sea. This is certainly a score for the Germans and a great loss to the British.

SUNDAY – 20/6/15 – Quiet day for us. French started on three days' bombardment of Achi Baba assisted by our 6” heavy howitzers. This bombardment is intermittent and an infantry attack on the enemy trenches will take place towards the close of it. The idea of the intermittent bombardment is so that the Turks will not know when to expect an attack and will be compelled to keep their front trenches full and so lose many men. The right flank (French) is expected to advance during the next few days while we hold the enemy's left. Church service was held on our position this evening for all those who cared to attend. We went down the Cliff out of danger from shells. Turks shelled 368 Battery during service.

MONDAY – 21/6/15 – In action this morning at 5 o'clock to prevent reinforcements from leaving our flank to go to French flank where the French were making an infantry attack. Fired 23 rounds. Could see French infantry charging the Turkish trenches through the smoke from the heavy shells from their batteries. French bombarded heavily all day assisted by our heavy howitzers and their infantry advanced all along the line. Turks counterattacked several times but suffered severe losses. We were in observation all day to prevent enemy sending his reserved from this flank to assist in the defence of the French flank.

TUESDAY – 22/6/15 – Aeroplane battle in the air about 8 a.m. One of ours chased an enemy (Taube) who had the advantage of a faster machine and endeavoured to drop two bombs on our machine. When he found this method of attack was unsuccessful he made off in the direction of his own lines chased by our airman. Things have been very quiet to-day. As I write everything is still with only an occasional shot from a sniper to break the silence.

WEDNESDAY – 23/6/15 – No excitement whatever to-day although rumour has it that we are commencing a big bombardment in a day or two now. Our heavy howitzers are about the only guns that have been firing to-day. L’s battery R.H.A. expects to commence firing at a mass of barbwire entanglements this evening in order to break them up.

THURSDAY – 24/6/15 – Very little excitement to-day. Last night Y Battery R.H.A. dug emplacements about 100 yards directly behind us so that they will be firing right over our heads and we will be in danger of prematures. We registered a new target firing 3 rounds.

FRIDAY – 25/6/15 – Everything still pretty quiet. A big bombardment and attack will be taking place in a day or two when we hope to gain several trenches. Turks shelled us a bit to-day but did no damage. They also shelled 368 Battery which is just behind us and to our right. Took in ammunition this evening.

SATURDAY – 26/6/15 – Still quiet but registered one or two targets to-night. Fired 12 rounds. On Monday a determined effort will be made to drive the Turks back on the left which is our flank. We expect the enemy to use asphyxiating gas if the wind is favourable and all troops have consequently been issued with respirators. We were shelled a bit to-day and one shell set fire to the scrub round one gun of a battery alongside us. Four men ran out from their pit to put it out and we were watching them when suddenly another shell burst right over them killing one and wounding three. I was made sergeant to-day.

SUNDAY – 27/6/15 – Everything still very quiet except for a few shells now and again and the noise of the guns as other batteries are registering targets. Tonight is a glorious moonlight night and we have been sitting in the gun pit discussing tomorrow's battle. It is the battle-eve and every British soldier in our fighting line knows that tomorrow may be his last day, yet all are cheery and looking forward to a victory. It is the way of the British. We are what is called the approach battery and, if necessary, will have to leave this position and take up another somewhere in the open.

MONDAY – 28/6/15 – Heavy howitzers started the bombardment at daylight this morning. We went into action at 10.20 a.m. and continued until about 8 p.m. Our infantry made good progress and captured 5 trenches and some guns without a great deal of opposition. Our artillery fire appears to have completely demoralised the enemy who were killed in bunches by our shrapnel bursting close down on the parapets of their trenches. About 700 prisoners were taken. Those whom I saw passing over our position under escort appeared to have been well fed and were certainly well clothed. They appeared well pleased to have got out of it so easily.

TUESDAY – 29/6/15 – We had several calls during last night and fired a few rounds to repel counterattacks. To-day more prisoners were taken in a ravine on the left. It is pitiful to see the wounded going back. Poor chaps they did their bit and now that they are injured they go back without a murmur. Everybody is so weary to-day with the strain of yesterday. To-day we were allowed a double ration of jam and extra rum. During yesterday we fired 232 rounds and suffered only one casualty – a man slightly wounded with a rifle bullet. We seem to be a particularly lucky battery in this respect. My gun is being sent to the base tonight for overhaul being taken away from here under cover of darkness.

WEDNESDAY – 30/6/15 – Spent the whole of the day at the Ordnance workshop at the advanced base where my gun was overhauled and one or two repairs effected. French advanced a considerable distance to-day. They commenced a terrific bombardment about daylight and we could see their infantry advancing at about 5 a.m. My gun was brought back to the emplacement under cover of darkness to-night but we will not go into action with it until daylight unless necessity demands it. The enemy is heavily shelling a gully about 40 yards to our right but as there is nothing there they cannot do much damage. While I was at the Ord. Dept. the Turks shelled the hospital alongside with “Asiatic Annie” and did considerable damage.

Turkish prisoners

Background

June was a relatively quiet month on both sides of the peninsula, but the troops at Cape Helles were less fortunate than those at Anzac Cove. The Commander at Helles (the "Butcher of Helles") remained convinced that frontal attacks across open ground in the face of machine guns was not suicidal (despite repeated evidence to the contrary). He ordered attacks on June 4, 21 and 28. On the first of these, the Allied forces suffered some 6500 casualties, and the Turks 9000. On June 6, the Turks counter-attacked and one young British officer shot four of his own men who ran. The attack on the 21st was a little more successful, though again at high cost.

The stench of rotting bodies was often remarked. It was said, for example, that on moonless nights seamen could navigate their small boats by the stench drifting out sea from Anzac Cove. Cape Helles was no better.

 

Glossary

K.O.S.B.: King's Own Scottish Borderers. An infantry regiment.

"Jack Johnstons" or "Coalboxes": any shell that exploded with a cloud of black smoke

Kapa Tepe: Gaba Tepe

R.H.A.: Royal Horse Artillery