From the Dardanelles.
SAPPER DYSON’S LETTER. A STIRRING ACCOUNT.
Published: Murrumbidgee Irrigator Newspaper 9th July 1915.
The following letter has been received from the front by a Leeton friend from Sapper Dyson, whose graphic account of our soldiers’ doings will be read with interest : —
” I am down here, about a hundred miles inland from Alexandria, wounded, shot through the left thigh, but doing remarkably well and exceedingly well treated, and enjoying myself after some months of hard campaigning. I was wounded on the 9th day of the battle of Gaba Tepe, and left on the 10th day of that mark in Australian history. On the eighth day (or night) I was sent from the trenches to our headquarters on the beach to report (on behalf of my section officer) on our work to the major. That midnight I ran into the Fourth Battalion filing silently up a gully to the right flank, where a terrific fight was in progress. I found Ditchburn, and he told me ” Bozzie ” was all right. I was inquiring about the rest of the Leetonites when I was……………………….
ARRESTED AS A SPY,
and had difficulty in getting away. ” Ozzie ” Earle and Keith McMurtrie were quite all right, as they had not been ashore, but were looking after horses on board ship. My company left Egypt with the Third Australian Brigade on February 28 for an unknown destination, which turned out to be the Greek island of Lemnos.
On arrival my section was immediately ordered ashore to make a water reconnaisance, and another section took all the gun cotton and left for the Dardanelles, where they saw the attack where the three battleships went down. They could not land, and returned. Half our company and the 9th Battalion remained on shore for 7 weeks and built a wharf, sank wells and dams. Meanwhile an immense fleet of about 100 transports, besides dozens of supply ships and an immense allied battle fleet, lay in the land-locked harbor. After some weeks they disappeared, but in the third week of April they returned. On the 25th, 23 of us, with one officer, accompanied 500 infantry (9th) on board a destroyer to a battleship, where we were informed we were the………………………..
FIRST LANDING PARTY
for the attack at Gaba Tepe (Gallipoli). We carried gun cotton for demolishing guns we hoped to capture in the fort. We received five days’ rations and 200 rounds of ammunition. I was condemned to carry a pick and shovel and six sandbags, and when I sat down on deck was so weighted that I could not rise without help. The Third Brigade (9th, 10th, 11th and 12th), were the covering force, and had orders to rush a certain ridge with the bayonet, hang on for three days, and die to the last man rather than surrender afoot of it, so that the Australian Army Corps, the Naval Brigade, and an Indian Brigade, with mountain batteries, could establish their landing.
At midnight I looked astern, and saw four or five battleships behind us, and a flotilla of destroyers, with the Third Brigade aboard, like grey ghosts in the dim moonlight. At 1 a.m. we filed silently into boats and barges, and towed by pinnaces, steamed in dead silence for the hostile shore, amidst quiet wishes for good luck from the sailors. About 4.30 a.m. the dawning light found us near the shore, too far north ! But in we went at full speed towards the frowning hills. In the dead stillness a dog barked, and then a shot was fired at us, then two more. The pinnace cast us off, and the order was given, ” Pull for your lives, lads !” By this time there was an increasing rattle of rifles and maxims from the trenches on the hills, and………………….
OUR MEN BEGAN TO FALL
in that awful hail of lead. Our pinnaces opened out with their machine guns, and then we bumped bottom and leaped into the water up to our armpits, and dashed ashore, some poor fellows falling from their wounds and being drowned. There was a breathless pause under a bank while bayonets were fixed, and then a cheer and ” At the ——s !” Up the hill with a rush, and no firing. Few enemies remained to be bayoneted as the silently advancing steel was too much for them — that and the sight of the destroyers vomiting forth their crowds of soldiers, and the grim battleships with their 12in. guns silently waiting for a target.
I returned from the first trench and rejoined my half-section on the beach, where they were under fire from Fort Gaba Tepe, and were throwing up a barricade of packs, haversacks — anything. We threw our packs and things away when we fixed bayonets. One of my section saved two machine guns when the men carrying them were shot in the water, one was shot through the head within a few feet of me when returning. He is recommended for the V.C. We rejoined the company which landed further up, and helped the Indians get their mountain guns ashore under shrapnel fire.
We then commenced to make a road to get the guns up the first ridge, and had some more casualties. The transports came up, and under the awful shrapnel the hundreds of boats made for the shore. I saw one boat of 25 that got under a machine gun, and…………………………………………………………………………………………………….
ALL WERE KILLED.
The two sailors in our large boat were both killed. The returning sailors were great. They stopped to clap the Indians bringing guns ashore, which their white- haired old English colonel proudly ack nowledged by standing up and saluting ; yelled ” Good old wallabies !” and ” What price Sydney town ?” airily waved their hands to us and laughed when the shells burst over them. Our wounded were splendid, and cheered the oncoming men as they passed them in their boats, as they returned to the hospital ships shattered and dying. By the afternoon 940 wounded had left for Egypt and still they poured into the dressing stations on the beach too quickly to be handled. The stretcher bearers were magnificent, and suffered heavily. A terrific naval bombardment took place, but the enemy’s guns did not cease fire until nightfall, and even then a few star shells continued to go in the direction of our captive balloon.
Since then, for the ten days I was there, the fighting has been continuous and the losses heavy, but we have progressed, and the enemy are wildly afraid of our bayonets. The country we are in is the most difficult imaginable, deep gulches and steep cliffs, covered with low, dense scrub, and not even a path through it. The navy has guarded our flanks night and day. Some days their big guns are constantly going. Above all that uproar of rifle fire, field and machine guns, howitzers and heavy naval guns, there was one sound which no bursting shells could obliterate, and would cause our fellows to smile and say:……………………………………………………………………….
” GIVE IT TO ‘EM, LIZZIE !”
That was the terrible crashing of the rear 15in. guns of the Queen Elizabeth — you never heard such a fearful sound in your life. She got one right into a battery, and guns, horses, men and earth went up in one glorious heap. We occasionally have had 6in. and 11in. shells fired at us, but the cause of all the damage is the unceasing bursting of shrapnel over the trenches, and the cramped line of communication in the gullies.
No – where on shore are you away from fire. Even the barge on which I went out to the hospital ship had shrapnel sent after it, and when we went on board an 11in. shell from the Goeben came hurtling over the Peninsula, and exploded 40ft or 50ft. away, throwing up a column of water twice as high as the masts. We breathed freely only when we moved our anchorage two miles further out.
I was shot while getting a box of biscuits, along with another chap, up to our men, who were working a few yards behind the firing line. Three of us started to climb the hill with it, but one was shot and his leg broken, and we nearly suffered a like fate in taking him down. On leaving us one of his stretcher-bearers was killed. Afterwards we lay behind a bank, and looked at the box, which was being fired at under the impression that someone was behind it. We had a smoke, and finally decided that as the company had nothing to eat that day, excuses would not be accepted. We got it away all right, and were resting in the bush, when we noticed bullets were hitting the bush, so pushed on to find the safest way to the top, while my partner took cover. I went down, and somebody got me into a dug-out and patched me up, and some time afterward I saw my comrade staggering past with the box, and hailed him from there, somewhat to his surprise. Later, on the ship, more of our men very badly wounded came on board, and told me they had got it in the same place. There were 540 left on the hospital ship, and 42 died on the two days trip.
We arrived in Egypt (Alexandria)……………………………………..
A FUNNY-LOOKING CREW,
with the mud from the trenches and the Valley of Death still on us. Most men’s clothes were cut and torn, and drenched with blood. We were dropped off at all kinds of places on the line to Cairo. We must have looked disreputable objects to the ladies, who were so good to us.
We had not washed, shaved, nor had our clothes off for two weeks. All the women here are giving a hand, as Egypt is full of wounded. Although this place is out of the way, we are not neglected, amongst our visitors being Lady Rodgers, Lady Carnarvon, the Governor of the Province, the Sirdar (Sir John Maxwell), all visited us a couple of days ago, also General Ford, and a young lieutenant who told us about some fighting he experienced in Flanders. The young lieutenant, we were afterwards surprised to learn, was Prince Henry of Battenberg. The British troops who landed further down the Peninsula had a terrific fight, and like us, some battalions were almost annihilated.
The South African veterans in our mob are silent now, as more Australians were put out of action in one day than went to South Africa altogether. No quarter is given on either side. Our men wanted a fight, and by Jove, they’re having it hotter than ever it was painted in their wildest dreams. There is…………………………………….
FUN IN THE TRENCHES
some nights. I’ve heard the Turks play ” Tipperary ” on the bugle, and our men yelling ” Come on, you saida bastards !” and the German officers calling, ” Don’t fire, lads, we are the French !” And then crack, crack from our trenches, and hurrying and scurrying in the bush. I expect to be back at the front in about two weeks, as my wound heals splendidly now.”