The stories behind the story
The complete memoir of the brutal World War 1 (WWI) battle of Gallipoli, written by Sergeant Fred Reynard of the Isle of Wight Rifles. Landing at Suvla Bay, August 1915. Don't listen, it's awful!
Bill Cheall's published memoirs, which depict his Dunkirk exploits and much more. Around £20 or less!
Show Transcript - Part 2
FT episode 17 - Gallipoli WW1 by Sergeant Fred Reynard - Part 2 Podcast
A complete unabridged memoir of the brutal World War 1 (WWI) battle of Gallipoli, written by Sergeant Fred Reynard from the Isle of Wight. He landed at Suvla Bay in August 1915, to continue the fight for the strategic waters of the Dadanelles and the Turkish capital city of Constantinople
More great unpublished history!
I was detailed for a patrol to go out to locate and dispose of some hidden Turks. If we could secure a prisoner it might be helpful but “clean out some of those thugs” were the orders.
Another bullet hit close to me, and I knew the sniper had no intention of letting me reach that shelter, and he was playing with me. I grabbed the earth and lived an eternity those next few minutes. Then I could stand it no longer, and I jumped up and made a flying leap for that shelter.
Men were trapped on his barbed wire and cut to pieces as they tried to free themselves. I jumped into a narrow gully followed by what remained of my platoon, and into that gully poured a mass of Turks from underground trenches as if they were being vomited out of the bowels of the earth.
I’m Paul Cheall, son of Bill Cheall, whose memoirs have been published by Pen and Sword.
You’re listening to Part 2 of the WW1 Gallipoli episode. If you’ve missed part 1 then I suggest you cross over to episode 16 and listen to that first.
Did anyone else find that first instalment of this memoir as exhausting as I did? My goodness it was unrelenting wasn’t it. You know even though I do try to pause for thought and breath during the show, I have to say when I listened back to it later it was still somewhat non-stop drama wasn’t it?
I will try to give you a few more breathers this time so if it goes quiet, don’t worry, I’m still there!
Welcome back. Thanks for returning
Just before I carry on I want to share a bit of feedback I had recently, then we’ll crack on:
First of all many thanks to Bigdon22 from UK and John from Geneva in Switzerland for your 5 star comments. I’ve also had an email from Sheila Winder from Canada who has actually written about Dad’s book, and she’s said such nice things about it I thought I’d share them with you.
I was 2 yrs. old when the Second World War started, born and bred in England, now living in Canada. My father was a pilot in the RAF, an uncle in the Royal Navy and 2 others in the Army.
Attempting to get the real story of what it was like for them during the war was frankly impossible. None of them wanted to tell it like it was, the only slight information I received from them was something of the camaraderie that they’d experienced.
I’ve come to realise that this wasn't unusual. I want to thank you for this affecting book regarding your Father and his wartime experiences. It struck me as being an honest accounting of the human aspects of war.
I feel every child should read this and hopefully realise the horror and futility of war. I tend to feel that World War 2 was possibly the last necessary war. Hitler, Nazis, the Gestapo could not be allowed to run roughshod over the rest of the world. Would that there were no more horrendous people like them in existence!
Thank you again for a much needed account of how War is experienced by the regular soldier in the trenches.
Thank you very much for that Sheila. You’ve expressed my own sentiments about Dad’s book perfectly and I think, many other people’s. You know Dad didn’t originally intend his memoirs for publication but I do think he’d be happy with how it’s all turned out. And I bless the day when Pen and Sword contacted me to say they wanted to publish – I’m also amazed, because they told me that only 1 in 14 submissions actually make it onto the printing presses.
So, I do hope that if listeners are enjoying this podcast, they’ll want to buy the book, Fighting Through from Dunkirk to Hamburg – there are links all over the FTP.co.uk website. It’s available in Hardback, Kindle and Kobo etc. Oh, and I’ll just mention that it’s had over 100 5star reviews on Amazon – that can’t be bad – and if you’re one of the people who have taken the trouble to buy it and write a review – thank you from the bottom of my heart!
REVIEW OF PREVIOUS WW1 PODCAST EPISODE
In the last episode we heard how Fred Reynard was fighting his way across the Gallipoli peninsula …
I’m now going to re-read the last paragraph of the previous episode to help remind you where you are in the story …
Four miles, yes four little miles, lay between us and the water of the Narrows and that would finish the Turks. Then all the hardship suffered, loss of life and limb which we’d endured would not then have been in vain. But it was not to be for there were two more summits to be taken
And Johhny didn’t wait for us to get to him - he came to us in the dark. Yard by yard we were forced back, back down the slope we’d fought so hard for, back under the pressure of overwhelming numbers.
Our flank was shot to pieces, so we within the front got it all ways. Bombers and snipers were all thrown into the fray and we could only go back to where we started.
There, we rested and licked our wounds and Johnny his, and we settled in but after 3 weeks we were on our way again; this time to Shrapnel Valley as it was called.
CONTINUATION OR WW1 podcast – GALLIPOLI PART 2
We took over trenches in good order and fairly deep, running across the brow of a hill. Behind us on the slope were scores of dug outs, the best, and as far as we were concerned’ the only one we had seen, and there was a good gun position, well-protected. The Turks were on a hill or hills that zig zagged away from us, the nearest being about 500 yards.
A deep valley ran between us, thick with dry gorse and winter strawberry bushes. This valley he swept with shrapnel during the day, and sent out an army of snipers during the night and woe to anyone who wanted to look round during the night, for he had an uncanny way of seeing in the dark.
We were comfortable for about a week then one night a patrol of his got close enough to throw a bomb in our front line trench, not far from us. We put up a star shell and we saw the patrol making their way back to their lines. The star shell lit up the valley long enough to range on them, with the gun, and shatter them, and then we were quiet.
The next morning, BANG, and a wiz bang shell burst overhead, wounding J West and C Knight the ship’s Capt and mate of the Wave, whom I was working with when the war started. I slipped down over the bank to help them and had just cleared the ridge and another shell, but this time a direct hit on my gun.
I never saw a part of that gun again - not even as big as a sixpence, and there was little left of the two men who were sitting there by it. They’d spotted the flash the night before and silenced it for ever. This ended my army life as a Machine Gun Sergeant for there were no replacements, so from then on I was No. 4 Platoon Sergeant.
Another two weeks and another move, this time towards Achi Baba, a high towering hill - and we took over a section that the Australians had taken named Russell’s Top. This was a flat top of small hill and between us and the Turks lines was a large strip of land which we could look down on and command a large open space.
The space was thickly covered with gorse, and huge rocks stood out like sentries. Good cover perhaps but for whom? For the place was alive with snipers! These snipers proved a menace to everyone. We could scarcely move in daylight and feel safe. Every day they claimed their victims and things began to get serious as we were all tied down it seemed.
One day, I had to report to Coy H.Q. There, I was detailed for a patrol to go out that night and try to locate and dispose of some of those hidden Turks. The patrol would be formed from my platoon and would consist of Lieut James, twelve men and myself. If we could secure a prisoner it might be helpful but “clean out some of those thugs” were the orders.
At night, we set off on our job and to be honest I had the wind up although I mustn't show it. We’d blackened our faces and went through a gap in the wire on all fours. Our Lieut led the way and I made the half way man. No noise was made and we carried on for about an hour, then rest, and watching like cats after a mouse.
The night wore on, and we made no contact and things seemed strangely quiet, when suddenly we received a signal, passed back by our officer. He had come up to two large rocks and we had to crawl up to them. We came up and what a hiding place for those four murderous thugs. We were on them before they knew what hit them. Killing two and knocking two out.
There was rum in a jar and I think they’d had some, which made them less alert. Their faces were painted with a colouring to suit the surroundings and there were ample supplies of dates, figs, water and ammunition. Yes, they’d come to stay.
Well, we had a conference, the Lieut and I, and I was told to get the two still alive back to our lines if possible. I took four men with me and started off. It was no joke hauling those senseless dead weights back over no man's land, over pot holes, and wreckage of men and material. We couldn’t do it without making a noise, and that brought sniper fire.
When they came too near, we used our prisoners as shields, but progress was very slow. Orders had been issued that there was a sniper’s patrol out, but it was necessary to return to the same part of the line we left. There was always the chance too, that a nervous dope would let go a round or two, and with a bad light, a yell could be fatal. I found it very difficult to get contact with our lines. So, finding a suitable cover for my party. I decided to go on alone and warn the sentries and get some sense of direction.
I carried on for a while and thought I could detect the dark outline of our trenches and started to make for them and then someone opened fire. I wondered what he saw, but he did bring the snipers yapping and then I realised that a sharp shooter had spotted me. There was a dark object ahead of me about ten feet away; I thought a rock and shelter - if I could reach it. I moved a little with caution and a bullet hit close to my head and filled my mouth with earth. He had the range right enough and it seemed to me that all that remained was the one with my name on, if he had it.
I dare not move and I went hot and cold in turns. Another bullet hit close to me, and I knew he had no intention of letting me reach that shelter, and he was playing with me. I grabbed the earth and lived an eternity those next few minutes. Then I could stand it no longer, and I jumped up and made a flying leap for that shelter. A hail of bullets followed me and I dropped behind the mound and couldn't move…
I fancied I was hit yet had no pain. I lay there. No I wasn’t wounded, just scared stiff, and then I looked about me and saw that the mound wasn’t rocks but two Johnnies swollen up by the sun. The position they were in gave me the impression that one was carrying the other when they fell. Yes two dead Turks for company and if anything smells worse than those two did, I am yet to find it.
I lay there as sick as a dog, as bullets hit those bodies, but I dare not leave them, for that would be fatal. So stench or no stench, I had to stay for I was alive and wanted to stay that way. But I was afraid of fear for I wanted to get up and dare not, and I tried to pretend that damnable odour wasn’t getting down my neck, but it was.
The night wore on and then suddenly the firing ceased, I waited, nothing happened, I stared out into the darkness and thought out my next move. The sniper was still silent and I began to wonder if one of my patrol had caught up with him, and then I moved forward and tried to get my bearings. I found myself on a burnt out patch of gorse and what I’d thought was our trenches was tall bush grass, the fire hadn’t touched. Try as I might I couldn’t determine my position, so I was in no man's land, hopelessly lost.
Not a happy feeling, but the position was such that something had to be done. I moved on towards the tall bush grass and came across a crumbled heap of a man, and he moved. I lay beside his broken frame and found he was an Australian, with his tongue swollen so badly for want of water that he was almost choked. I used the remains of my water to ease him and turned him over on his back and dragged him towards the shelter of the high grass. One of his legs rolled and bumped like a log for it was just loosely attached. How long he had laid there, no one will ever know. He could never speak and within an hour he was dead.
Day, I knew, would soon break so I could go no further, and I took advantage of the high cover and huddled up to my dead partner and prepared to see the day out with all its heat and no water. Then, when shells swept overhead, and machine guns and musketry rained bullets across that cursed land, I went into a mercy sleep.
The day was nearly spent when I opened my eyes and felt for my water. The bottle was empty, and I remembered where I was. I looked to my dead partner and how that body had swollen in the day's sun. I’d have to wait until darkness fell before I could make a move, so I tried to find my position while the light lasted.
It was difficult to determine how the lines ran even in daylight, for the Turkish lines like our own ran in a zig-zag fashion up hill and down dale. Then I saw in the distance the sea and in my mind's eye I followed the coast line, yes - Suvla Bay and Salt Lake and then a destroyer and where her shells went falling, I’d found the direction of our lines. Now my men waiting out there. I knew I must contact them, so as night fell I went back on my tracks.
After an hour’s search, I found them and we started back for our lines. The prisoners had become a bit of trouble in the night, so were dispatched, the lads told me. And they’d finished off another two who were firing at somebody not far from them, so that could have been the ones bothering me.
We joined up with another patrol looking for us and got back safely, but our officer and the remainder of the patrol, we never saw again. The next week was a week of unrest and hand work. It was a continual dig, dig, dig and trenches were like a maze when we finished.
We sapped under the soil out into no man's land and we knew something was going to happen. Ration came up to us in the night, brought by the Zionist mule transport corps. He knew this and shelled a good deal. He had captured a French 75 battery, a nasty piece of work, HV and the shells did a terrible amount of damage.
He gave us no peace, either by day or night and everyone had a dose of nerves. Then suddenly, we stopped digging and the Royal Engineers blasted a hole to the surface from the saps we had made towards no man's land. We took up our advanced positions for an attack. This took us all by surprise for we did not expect to attack, but nevertheless at the dawn we went over the top. Once out of the cover of our trenches and sap heads, all hell let loose. None of us was in our best form or shape; for hard work, shelling day and night and little sleep had sapped our strength and nerves and to have this suddenly thrust upon us didn’t go down very well.
We went into that attack half stupefied and crazed. It was a fair distance to his lines and no man's land was soon a seige of heat, fumes, stench and dirt of belching shells. We were mad, and out for anybody's blood. It's hard to describe just what happened for the Turks were strongly entrenched and we met a withering crossfire of rifle and machine gun fire.
Men were trapped on his barbed wire and cut to pieces as they tried to free themselves. I jumped into a narrow gully followed by what remained of my platoon, and into that gully poured a mass of Turks from underground trenches as if they were being vomited out of the bowels of the earth.
Then followed an inferno of slaughtering with cold steel, with groups of men at each other's throats in that confined area jabbing, sticking, yelling and cursing.
Dead and wounded were trampled underfoot, cries of Allah-Allah were terminated with a bayonet thrust to the throat and the ground was literally covered with spawning Turks.
We fought to a standstill and then came the order to retire and we had him beaten. Oh what an order! We spit blood but carried out our orders. We retired to our own lines, losing more men as we went back, and then we were told that our attack was only to divert his attention and draw his fire, while the 29th Div tried to take Achi Baba. Their attack incidentally failed, although they advanced 1000 yards but over 400 good lads of our Brigade were left to rot by that going over, just to be recalled again. Yes, our Brigade suffered badly and the men who survived cursed their commanders, but only under their breath.
I never really felt the same again after that engagement. For weeks after in my sleep, I could see those masses of forms coming from out of the earth, all coming at me it seemed with cries of Allah on their lips and murder in their eyes and how I longed to be miles away from it all, at peace with myself and with everyone. We nursed our wounds, recovered our wounded and got them back to the CC station but the dead were left where they fell for no one could do anything about it and one could only watch them rot.
But the Turk was not to take our attack and do nothing about it. He increased his shelling and raided at night and we got no respite, then one evening at dusk he came over, how they came wave after wave shouting and cursing calling to Allah just like wild men. What I’d have given for my machine gun. But concentrated by fire from our rifles and machine guns giving us cross fire, we cut them to pieces. Some reached the barbed wire but no further, but still they came on in their hordes. Then darkness fell. They brought up mortar bombs and tore holes in our wire but what a price they paid. Very lights lit the sky and we let him have it. If ever Johnny got it, he did that night, but still he didn’t let up.
He reached our trenches further down, but a counter attack drove him out. He was attacking on a divisional front and seemed determined to break through. All that night and all next day he attacked, throwing in new reserves to no avail. The next evening be broke the line held by the 11th Londons but the reserve brigade swept into the gap and the line was restored. Then as the day came to its close he started to withdraw, leaving behind an appalling number of dead and wounded. That night found us worn and tired but we had no further trouble from him, our wounded were got back and our dead removed and buried where possible. But all that night one could hear the moaning and groaning of the wounded he had left behind, groans of agony which would go on until their Allah carried them home.
The days passed and the sun grew hotter and hotter and with the heat came a new foe with its terror. Great black blow flies came in swarms and fed on the bodies lying rotting in the sun. It was impossible to eat, drink or do anything without fly sauce as we called it. They bit like mosquitoes and moved in hordes. The sides of the trenches and dug outs were black with them. They brought diseases and they brought death. Dysentery and skin diseases were rife. No one complained until they couldn’t stand on their feet. Something would have to be done and done quickly or friend and foe alike would perish.
And so an armistice was arranged in order to clear away those rotting bodies the breeding places of this new foe. The heat of the sun parched and burnt everything. Those thousands of bodies swelled and blackened under a furnace of heat and the fumes arising from their decomposing bodies so fouled the air that the stench never left us, even after wholesale burials. Friend and foe alike went into no man's land to bury their dead. Everyone wore just shorts and no arms were carried and the sweat poured off our sun baked skins.
We used pot holes, shell holes, and every sort of crack and crevice to cover the bodies, for it was impossible to dig graves in that scorching heat. Some old trenches leading up to Johnny's line were filled in with dead Turks, the swollen bodies just tumbled in and covered over. Turk and British worked together and we even exchanged cigarettes.
The Turk continually chanting Allah, Allah, Allah, ha li, Allah, while our men would exclaim Mother of God, or God Help Us. We saw a face we once knew and gently laid that broken body to rest. We became human beings again. Turk and British alike. But we all knew that in a short time we’d be at each other's throats again, for the bloody game must continue.
And it was not all men we buried, for among his dead were Arab women. Twelve hours we worked and then returned to our lines, and one hour after, his first shell came over and the fight was on again.
There was no real rest or rest camps and rear lines were unknown at Gallipoli, for you could always be reached by fire even on the beaches. Always in danger, we laboured on, sometimes praying for protection and sometimes hoping a bullet would put an end to it all. Snipers came back again after a day or two and he shelled with that dreaded 75.
I had dysentery and became very weak and I found it most distressing. Water conditions didn’t improve matters and to make things worse some tins of bully contained fish hooks as did the hay for the mules imported from U.S.A. Our rations were half a pint of water per day, one tin of bully beef and 3 hard biscuits, plus one tin of jam between three.
WW1/WW2 PODCAST CONTD
The jam was like paraffin, the bully salty, and the biscuits hard, while the water was wet and warm, condensed from sea water by a destroyer. But we lived on, though at times I wondered why. Then we had new men join us, lads from the Devons and Wiltshires, but we weren’t up to strength.
I felt for many of those lads for some had been wounded on the Western Front and were told they were going East for a quiet front. A good number of them found that quiet front in a few days after joining us, a quiet rest from which they were never disturbed, for orders came that we were to attack and take Hill 60.
With large maps set before you, settled in a nice comfortable house, over on the Island of Lemnos this job looked easy, but for those who had to carry it out it was different. The Australian and New Zealand troops (the finest fighters in the world bar none) had battered themselves to death more than once fighting for this accursed hill. Important, I know, but was it worth the blood that ran and was still to run in a flood down its slopes? I say no, but folks like myself didn’t count. I was ill and felt it, but I could fire a rifle and that to them was all that was necessary.
The 53rd Division came in and we went out at midnight. This division was fairly new from England and smart in appearance, the little we saw of them as they took over. We carried on through to support trenches for about a mile, when we began to bear left and further into the land. We passed signposts marking the route and to places won at terrible cost by the Australians such as Quinn’s Post, Bloody Angle, Jefferson’s Post and Lone Pine and on to the base of the hill where we rested and took food. We found good shelters and fine trenches for the Turks had built them and were relieved of their possession by the Australians.
Hill 60 lay between Suvla and Anzac and was a renowned Turkish stronghold. If the British could take and hold it, their line could be straightened and made almost impregnable. And the war on that front would settle down to a quiet trench warfare, [but it was that little if that counted???].
In two days we heard the plan of action. Platoon and section commanders knew exactly what to do and where to go but no one ever mentioned what Johnny was going to do. But when zero hour was released, I knew as every sane person did, that the whole attack was doomed to failure, from the start, for the same mistake as was made at Anafasta, was to be repeated here, for we were to attack in broad daylight.
It was to start off at 3pm in boiling heat across a wide valley which could be swept by enemy guns. We were to go up the hill which was flat topped and which was a mass of well-built trenches and hold the top until relieved. Yes, well-built, the trenches were - deep, and covered over with pine logs, with slits to fire through, and manned with dozens of machine guns and crack shots.
The force would go over in the usual three waves. The South Wales Borderers, Connaught Rangers and a Ghurkha Brigade in the first wave. Our brigade with contingents from the Australian and New Zealand regiments next, to be followed by two brigades of the 36th Irish Div. The attack would be preceded by a heavy bombardment from land and sea artillery for 20 min.
The bombardment started and so did the Turks. His shells were heavy ones, from the forts at the Narrows fired over the hills. Our shells were doing a lot of damage to his lines judging from the heaps being thrown sky high.
Then zero hour and the fight was on. We availed ourselves of every bit of shelter, however small, as we followed the first wave in. Shells whistled and wailed and exploded, filling great spaces with blackness, clods of earth and falling shrapnel. If there was a hell it was here. Bombs bigger than I’d ever seen, rolled down the hill bounding and careering and exploding with a deafening roar. The shells shrieked like devils from that hell.
Bullets from machine guns and rifles droned and pipped all around us. We dropped, fired and went forward again. His fire swept our lines like a gigantic scythe. A mist of smoke formed a veil on the afternoon haze and I think that saved some of our lads, but all the same they were dropping like rotten sheep all over the place. We used everything, boulders, clumps of scrub, and even the dead for protection and for a breather. A score of times we dashed from one place to another. Officers yelled themselves hoarse.
The lads were being mown down like corn, and we could see no enemy, so well was he entrenched. Men cursed and muttered in their helplessness and lost heart. A fight is one thing, but this was useless slaughter, all through some tragic mistake. Less than one hour and there was no one left of the first wave. Some did reach his first line of trenches, only to be mown down by those in the trenches above.
Everyone of that first wave was either killed or wounded. The wounded lay in front of his trenches only to be slaughtered from those accursed saps and spurs, he was a past master at building. The Turks taunted those helpless lads as they lay helpless there.
Then the shells caught fire to the scrub and it spread like wild fire, as everything was so dry. It spread with great speed and put a wall of fire between us and the third wave. The wounded had no chance as the fire licked its way over vast wastes of scrub. Those wounded who crawled clear were shot by jeering Turks. It was a most terrible sight. Men were being burnt alive and the air was polluted with the smell of burning flesh. With the volumes of smoke it seemed as if the whole world was ablaze. We were hopeless and helpless, tied down by intense fire. I’d lost nearly all my platoon and with a few stragglers we took shelter behind a ridge.
How could we save those countrymen of ours, wounded and struggling to get clear of that inferno of heat? How could we watch those men being slowly roasted to death as they lay there helpless and listen to their terrible screams as the flames licked their clothing? We could stand it no longer. We took aim, and said ‘God forgive us’. No, it was not murder but mercy. By the mercy of God night fell and we fell back, war-sickened and weary. Suffering defeat after defeat, all remnants of faith and confidence destroyed.
And Hill 60 was never taken.
I was sick of heart, mind and body when I got back.
I’d seen men whom I had grown to love and respect,
men I’d eaten with, joked and fought with,
men whom we’d knelt in prayer with,
[all] just wiped from the face of this earth without a chance to hit back and without a chance to bid their families goodbye.
I thought of mothers bereaved of their sons, a wife the husband, and the little children their fathers, and a thousand and one relatives to mourn.
And I thought of my own loved ones, and buried my head in the dust of the trench
Those of us who remained, moved back to Shrapnel Valley the next evening and there was a mail awaiting us from home. How many of those letters were to be returned marked 'Killed in Action' or even worse 'Missing'.
I opened one from my mother and on the first page read that my younger brother had been killed 'in action' in France.
He would’ve certainly gone mad. Yes our family were bereaved and we could share the sorrows of countless thousands with our own.
The summer passed along and soon gales of wind blew up. The piers built at Suvla and Anzac were damaged or washed away. Heavy rain clouds rolled in from the sea and rations were more difficult to land, and the nights began to get colder, for it was near the end of October. When the sea calmed, bundles of greatcoats were brought ashore and issued. Were we to spend the winter here? That was the burning question.
Then the rain came, and what a rain. Trenches were flooded and the valleys filled. Bodies were swept from their shallow graves and those that had no graves, rushed past in one mad rush towards the sea.
Olive trees were uprooted and collected the bodies, and diverted the waters, until the valleys were lakes and the hills waterfalls.
The heat of the summer had turned the chalk substance to powder and to walk meant to carry pancakes of earth on your boots. Snakes appeared for the first time. With all our living in the ground, we’d not seen a reptile before the rain. But some of these were 8 foot long and the bodies the thickness of a cup.
But the rain only lasted three days and soon the ground was dry again. But the cold winds began to blow and the fighting slackened off.
November came and still colder and we stood too one morning to find the peninsula in a coat of white. Yes, nature in a few hours had done what thousands of men could not do in seven months, for all the dead were covered, yes covered, with a mantle of snow. To me this looked a wonderful picture.
From high ground, and looking down to the sea, with the hills and valleys covered, it was a Christmas card picture. But the snow brought something else. The Indians, the Gurkhas and the men from Australia and New Zealand had never seen snow before, and there was a number of cases of frost bitten feet, especially among those who wore no boots.
For hours one saw the trek down to the shore of the more fortunate little Ghurkha, carrying his less fortunate pal, with his feet simply rotting away and in terrible pain. Then we had a visitor to our line, in no other person than Lord Kitchener.
There were plenty of brass hats then, the first we’d seen. He didn’t stay long, but I expect he saw enough, for within a few days we were ordered to be ready to move again.
The day arrived to move, and this time it was to Anzac Cove. We trailed down those winding trenches, down towards the shore. Then Capt Seely came up to me and said, "We are going off this God forsaken land Lieut". I couldn’t understand [why] and told him. So he simply said, "You will," and was gone.
Small boats were waiting to take us off, and I found myself on a destroyer and I sat down aft and looked towards the land. The sun was going when we began to move from the hell we’d lived in for just over six long months.
Sari Bair and Achi Baba stood there in all their great majesty, and seemed to look down on us, as we steamed away. Behind us we left the dead, the mortal souls who had been our comrades in arms, during those weary months. Behind us too, the disease, the heat, and now the snow. The Turks can have it, for it’s rightly theirs. But on Anafasta Ridge I left a heap of stones marked with a simple wooden cross and sheltered by an olive tree. That spot will be, for me, forever England.
We reached Mudros the next morning and went ashore. What the Greeks thought of us I never knew or cared. I’d lost two stone in weight and was alive with lice and dirt, for up to now I’d not washed for six long months, neither had my boots been off my feet. I released my laces from my boots and they fell to pieces, the stitches having perished. No feet were left in my socks for these had been absorbed in my boots or feet. All that remained of my shirt was just two rings of cloth, where the body of the shirt was at one time joined.
A fortnight of rest and good food and care, and plenty of hot water and baths, plus new second hand uniforms, made us new men and we were ready to sail again - but this time to Alexandria.
My time with the battalion now was growing short although I didn’t know it, and after a while I was ordered to report to Gen HQ at Cairo with Capt Seely.
I went before Major Gen Hunter Weston and he told me that my reported conduct in action was such that his Majesty King George V had been pleased to grant me a commission in the land forces, to come into effect as from day mentioned in orders at Anafasta Ridge.
He offered his congratulations and wished me luck and he shook my hand and within a fortnight I was on my way to my own country, England, a trip which was interrupted by a Jerry tin fish when the Minnewaska was sunk off Crete. I was picked up by a French minesweeper and landed at Crete - Sudan Bay but later in the week resumed my journey in a tramp ship and arrived home in one piece.
Well, after a spot of leave and with another role to play I landed in France. My time with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force closed here and a new life was before me but whatever that would prove to be, it would never surpass the hardships of, or even compare with, Gallipoli, which certainly lived up to its name while we were there as the Peninsula of Death
Fred Reynard Feb 1916. END OF GALLIPOLI PART 2 WW1 PODCAST
GALLIPOLI WWI PODCAST EPILOGUE
Listener the following is a short epilogue added by Fred
My story is comprised from notes I made when on the Peninsula and rewritten on my way from Mudros to Alexandria, but by good fortune I posted them to England or they would have been lost forever when the ship the S.S. Minnewaska was sunk while bringing me home.
There are many stories not included I could tell which, although true, would never be believed. Some of the things I saw, perhaps, it is better not written, for it would bring no credit to the human race.
Nevertheless, my experience is one that will always live with me until I go where the thousands of those other lads went. Three lessons, though, were brought home to me
(1) How the animal nature in a man can be liberated and he can kill, kill and keep on killing if his own life is at stake
(2) It proved to me how much a man can endure and go on enduring if he thinks his cause is right and
(3) It brought out the true qualities of a man as it did in Dink Watson who was prepared to give, and did give, his life for a friend.
I’ve posted up the full text for this podcast on my web site. Here you’ll always find show notes, photos, links, subscribe buttons, feedback, social media and contact buttons – everything you might need, so please take a visit.
You’ll also find full details of my Dad’s book, Fighting Through from Dunkirk to Hamburg – published by Pen and Sword – This book is what inspired the show and it forms a great glue that pulls together the various stories that form this podcast. There are some great deals available in both hardback and electronic form.
All of the above are at FTP.co.uk.