Hal portrait

Hal Winters' War

1914 - 1919

Margaret's Blog - Diary No.2

Hal profile

Diary No.2 covers the period from Sunday 4 April 1915 to Monday 21 June 1915

The period covered by this diary centres on the Dardenelles Campaign, an attempt to seize control of the Dardenelles, the narrow sea passage joining the Mediterranean to the Sea of Mamara and Istanbul, the capital of Turkey. Turkey was an ally of Germany, and the area was crucial to the supply of oil to Germany.

Part of the campaign was a series of planned landings on the beaches of the Gallipoli peninsula by the joint forces of Britain, France and Australia/New Zealand. The peninsula guarded the Northern shore of the entrance to the Dardenelles. The British forces landed at Helles at the tip of the peninsula. The Australian/New Zealand forces landed at a small cove on the Aegean coast on the North of the peninsula. This area became known as Anzac Cove. The French made a diversionary landing on the Asiatic side of the entrance, before joining the British at the Helles sector.

General Note:  Wherever possible a brief resume of the personal details of the individual soldiers mentioned in the diaries is given. This includes their age at the time of enlistment, which, for the soldiers mentioned in this diary, was August-October 1914. Unless they had been killed or invalided out early as medically unfit many will be found to have returned to Australia in October-November 1918. This was under the provisions of the 'Special 1914 Leave', long leave back in Australia given to those who enlisted in 1914. By the time these men reached Australia the war was over, so they never, in fact, had to return to active service.

The Diary Entries

4 April 1915  T S Mashobra = Troopship Mashobra. 'Mashobra' is a town in India.

5 April  The 2nd Field Ambulance, including horses and wagons, embarked on the 'Mashobra', a 8236 ton transport ship, built in 1913. An Australian Army Service Company and the 2nd Field Engineers were also on board. The Mashobra was later sunk by a submarine in April 1917.
Hal's 'Garibaldy shirt' was a style named after the Italian Patriot, Guiseppe Garibaldi. It was collarless, and was probably khaki, although the original ones were red. A brassard was a sleeve or arm badge. Replacing the lost Pay Book caused hassle in the future.

6 April  'Hucklebury Finn' by Mark Twain.

8 April  Arrived at Mudros Bay, Isle of Lemnos, where all the ships were meeting up.

9 April  During the period at Mudros Bay the troops practised disembarking by nets or rope ladders from the troopships onto small boats, rowing, and finally wading ashore.

10 April  ASC = Army Service Corps.

15 April  Pte Len Bagley (41) had been one of the participants in the hashish smoking experiment on 25 January. Mac = Miles McCabe. Hal must have been pretty athletic to manage the climb up a 100 ft. high wire cable mast-stay. Also see 17 April.

16 April  Greek money. 100 Lapta = one Drachma.

18 April  Lt. Gen Sir William Birdwood was the General Officer commanding the ANZAC forces.

19 April  Bad weather delayed the Gallipoli landing, so this 'disembarkation' was probably another practice run.

20 April  Having had various items stolen on 5 April, and lost his purse on 13 April, Hal could probably ill-afford to now lose his money-belt. To paraphrase Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Ernest', I can almost hear Dame Edith Evans saying 'To lose one item, Private Winters, may be regarded as misfortune; to lose several looks like carelessness'.

Hal appears to have spent the next couple of days sewing a new money belt.

24 April  The Mashobra moved to the final rendezvous area.

25 April  By 5 a.m. on Sunday 25 April 1915 the Mashobra reached Gallipoli, and anchored off Gabe Tepe. The plan was  that the stretcher-bearers, who would collect the wounded, would land first, to be followed by the Tent Division who would set up Dressing Stations and Emergency Operating Theatres, and finally the Transport Division with horse-drawn wagons and Ambulances.

A hot breakfast of curry and rice was served, and then the men who were taking part in the initial landing were transferred onto the TBD 'Foxhound'. Wounds and Scars says this took place at 6 a.m. but Hal says 'our boys got aboard a destroyer at 7 a.m.'. 'Our Boys' consisted of the three Bearer Sub-divisions and three doctors - a total of 113 men. They had only 32 stretchers with them, no splints, and very limited medical supplies.

From the Foxhound they were transferred again into small boats, and then towed and rowed to land at Anzac Cove about 6.30 - 7.00 a.m., towards the end of the second wave of landings. They immediately went into action, evacuating the wounded down Shrapnel Gully and back to Anzac Cove.

Meanwhile the Mashobra was moved out of the danger zone and anchored about ten miles away, near the Isle of Imbros.

26 and 27 April  Those aboard the Mashobra were frustrated at still not having got ashore, and desperate for news. Hal was particularly concerned about Frank (Green)  and his mates in the 'Society of Ones' (see 15 April). On 27 April Hal makes the first specific mention that he is in the Tent Sub-division.

28 April  The Mashobra returned to Lemnos to pick up essential medical stores and equipment, and then returned to ANZAC.

Pte. Thomas Swaby (221) was an iron-moulder aged 20 from Essendon. He stayed with the 2nd Field Ambulance as a Driver until he returned to Australia in October 1918. Previously mentioned  25 February.

29 April  'Helios' = signalling using lights or reflective mirrors. The Mashobra opened as a temporary hospital ship, which despite having horses on board was clean, unlike some of the other troop ships which were pressed into service to take the wounded from Gallipoli. These ships were known as 'Black Ships',  and unlike the proper hospital ships which were painted white with a red cross, were not protected under the  Geneva Convention.

Captain Balcombe Quick (1883-1969) had earlier served with Lt. Col Sturdee as a doctor in the 16th Field Ambulance. Hal worked in the operating theatre, where the four doctors on board worked right through the first two  nights. Hal recorded that he himself had one hours sleep.

The rumour that five of the Unit's Stretcher-bearers had been been killed was incorrect, although one, Pte Thomas Webster (232) was killed on 28 April. He was a 35 year-old dentist, who had brought his own instruments with him. As there was initially no dedicated Dental Unit  in Egypt he had treated many soldiers there.

30 April  '200 of our troops killed' - so far I haven't found any confirmation of this incident.

Hal was now working on a ward with mostly head and abdominal injuries, which tended to be the most serious type. A man with a similar injury to the one Hal refers to in code is mentioned in Wounds and Scars. Also mentioned is the removal or covering of the Red Cross insignia by the Bearers.

By now there were 404 wounded men on board, crammed into every space, and Lt. Col Sturdee decided they could take no more.

1-3 May 1915  The Mashobra sailed for Alexandria at 8 a.m. on 1st May, which it reached 2 1/2 days later. The three Tent Sub-divisions combined were designed to initially deal with 150 ill and wounded, and pass them on quickly to proper hospital facilities. There were 400 wounded on board the Mashobra, in make-shift working conditions, with many of them very seriously wounded indeed. Some of them would have been wounded on the first few days after the landing, and then been waiting a day or two at Anzac Cove to be evacuated, and by the time they eventually reached hospital in Cairo nearly a week would have elapsed.

The doctors and Nursing Orderlies of the Tent Division were flat out the whole time with very little sleep. No wonder Hal found it difficult to remember Sunday (2 May).

15 men died during the voyage back to Alexandria, and were buried at sea.

Sergeant Hilliers is mentioned again in a later diary when Hal was talking to some N.Z. soldiers, and they identified him as the sergeant who had 'lost his memory'. I wonder what eventually happened to the money-belt. At the back of the diary is a piece of paper which looks as though it has been torn off the flap of an envelope. It is endorsed 'High Commission for New Zealand', so maybe Hal had been in touch with the High Commission about it. (see Nov 1915).

U.S.B.S. = United States Battle Ship.

All the wounded were unloaded at Alexandria by mid-day on the 4th May.

It's not clear where the 'tea and cakes' came from, but the contrast between their normalcy and the hell left behind at Gallipoli and the last few days on the Mashobra could hardly be greater.

5 May  The Mashobra pulled into a new berth at Alexandria, and, since the terrain at Gallipoli had proved unsuitable for their use, the Transport Division with their horses and ambulances were unloaded. A large number of natives were then employed to clean and disinfect the ship.

Eddie = Pte. Edwin D. S. Hopkins (127), mentioned several times in the diaries. He was a 19 year-old salesman from Ballarat, who stayed with the Field Ambulance Service thoughout the war. He was promoted to Sergeant, awarded the Military Medal in France in 1917, and returned to Australia in October 1918.
            -  Otello Vescia - Hal became very friendly with Otello, and kept in touch with the family by letter.

6 May  -  Sgt. Euler Gladstone Gray (8), 28 year-old plasterer from Prahran. He was admitted to hospital in August 1915, and later served in France. Returned to Australia in October 1918.
            -  Cpl. Ernest Laycock (244), 25 year-old plasterer born in England. Serious gun-shot wound at Gallipoli in June 1915, and sent to hospital in England. Returned to Australia in April 1918, medically unfit.
            -  Sgt. Dispenser Leslie Clarence Hall (6), aged 23, a pharmacist from Ballarat. Served in Gallipoli and France. Promoted Staff-Sgt. January 1917. His diaries are quoted in Wounds and Scars, and formed the basis of a series of articles published in the Melbourne Herald Sun in April 2000. He returned to Australia in October 1918.
            -  Sgt. Arthur W. H. Stallwood (4), 29 yr-old bank clerk from Ballarat, born in England. Evacuated from Gallipoli with dysentry. Promoted W.O. in Pay Corp. Returned to Australia in July 1918, medically unfit.
            -  'Wilkie'  -  probably Pte. Herbert B. Wilkinson (235), a 35 yr-old Surgical Dresser born Dublin. Evacuated from Gallipoli with dysentry, and later wounded in France. Awarded MS Medal in June 1918 and promoted Staff Sgt. Returned to Australia October 1918.
            -  Eddie = Eddie Hopkins (127).

'Scripsimus' = Latin for 'we wrote'.

28 1/2 PT = 28 1/2 Piastres = nearly 6/- = three days pay.

'a boat due to sail at 8 pm'  -  Hal must mean 8 a.m. the next morning.

7 May  The Mashobra with four doctors and 59 members of the Tent Sub-division left Alexandria to return to Anzac to collect more casualties. Wounds and Scars saya 'Lt Col. Sturdee experienced a level of frustration at being forced to remain aboard the Mashobra with his men, rather than establishing facilities ashore, a situation caused by the lack of hospital ships to treat the wounded and sick'.

11 May   'Sinking of Lusitania' - The Lusitania was a large British passenger liner sunk by a German submarine on 7 May 1915. The heavy loss of life, including 128 Americans, hastened America's entry into WW1.
'Hospital ashore'  -  At the end of April the 2nd Field Ambulance established a small dressing station/hospital at Brighton Beach, from where the wounded were taken to Anzac Cove for evacuation. It was badly damaged on 10 May.

12 May  Jock Hunter  =  Cpl. John William Hunter (132), a 34 yr-old Driver from South Yarra. Later promoted Sgt., he suffered asthma, severe bronchitis and pneumonia and was evacuated from Gallipoli, later serving in France. Returned to Australia medically unfit in 1916. This 'Jock' might possibly be the previously unidentified 'Jock' who was one of the group who set out from  Mena Camp to visit Shubra on 25 January.

12-18 May  It is difficult to work out from Hal's diary alone just what ship he was on over the next few weeks. Wounds and Scars states that on 12 May the Tent Division transferred from the Mashobra and ended up on the Seang Choon, another of the 'Black Ships'. The facilities on board were not as good as on the Mashobra and Captain Quick described it as 'filthy dirty'. However, Hal thought the food was better. Hal makes no mention of his hospital duties aboard the Seang Choon, but they must have continued as casualties were brought on board over the next six days. By 18 May there was a full complement of 450 ill and wounded. Wounds and Scars indicates that the casualties on this ship were not as serious as those who had been aboard the Mashobra, and they were taken to Lemnos rather than Alexandria

15 May  'Talk with Mat Bronwyn(?)'  -  identity untraced, and the surname is practically indecipherable.

19 May  QM's Fat  =  Quarter-master's fatigue.

20-24 May  Apart from carrying wounded on 20 May, Hal seems to have spent this period on board the Seang Choon doing little but swimming in Mudros Bay.

25 May  The Tent Division under Lt Col Sturdee again changed ships, this time boarding the Franconia, a passenger liner.

27 May  The 'march' was described by Sgt. Gray as a 'farce'.

28 May  "Clacton Party'  -  The Clacton was a trawler being used as a troop ship. Don't know the significance of 'the Clacton Party', but Hal himself got aboard the Clacton the following day.

29 May  Went ashore to Mudros. Major Shaw = Charles G Shaw (1885-1967), a doctor who served with Lt Col Sturdee in the 16th Field Ambulance.
Captain Balcombe Quick  -  previously mentioned performing operations on 29 April.

30 May  The 60 or so members of the 2nd Field Ambulance Tent Division, including Hal, finally arrived ashore at Gallipoli, where they met up with the unit's bearers at Brighton Beach.
Frank = Frank Green, his friend and frequent companion on excursions from Mena Camp.
Ray Thornton (334) his friend and frequent companion on excursions from Mena Camp, was wounded in the lung on 27 May.

1 June 1915  Pte Ernest Stableford (282), a 35 yr-old butcher, born in England. Evacuated from Gallipoli in June with debility and dysentry. Returned to Australia in 1916, medically unfit.

5 June  Pte Charles Matthews (163), a 21 yr-old warehouseman, born in England. Seriously wounded at Gallipoli and evacuated to England. He rejoined unit, but returned to Australia in 1917 after suffering diptheria.

7 June  The small Dressing Station/Hospital at Brighton Beach was in a dug-out, and from early June the unit extended it by building a series of dug-outs 12ft X 12ft each capable of holding 20 patients. Although there were no major military operations in June there was a continuous stream of casualties and the sick through the dressing station.

8 June  'big gun into position at Kaba Tepe'. The Turkish guns at Gaba Tepe caused a lot of problems to the unit. Many of the injuries they treated were from shrapnel rather than bullets. The guns also interupted their swimming, which may sound unimportant, but in fact swimming was the only means of washing themselves and attempting to get rid of their lice. Wounds and Scars reports that 'everyone was lousy, including the C.O.'
The Turkish guns were given nicknames e.g. Beachy Bill, Weary Willie, Asiatic Annie or Farting Annie (located at Anafartalar). There is a sketch of a gun on the back page of diary 2.

11 June  Miles = Miles McCabe.

13 June  Thompson = Bugler Albert Thompson (250). Previously mentioned in October 1914. Evacuated from Gallipoli after shell wound to thigh. Later served in France and returned to Australia in October 1918.

'Bread issued' - this was the first bread the troops had had since landing seven weeks earlier. This was in contrast to the French, who had bread within two days of landing.

15 June  -  'Barrels of wine'  -  Wounds and Scars says the wine was from the HMS Triumph which had been sunk on 25 May by a German submarine. Sap = a communication tunnel or trench.

16 June  Pte Benjamin Densley (82). Aged 25, a skilled labourer born in Tasmania. He suffered gun-shot wounds to the head, and died the following day on board the hospital ship 'Gascon'. He was buried at sea.

18 June  'Peninsular Press' was the local army newspaper for the Dardenelles Campaign. The proposed bomb-throwing competition is mentioned in several memoirs. I haven't seen any reports as to whether it actually occured.

The 2nd Field Ambulance started their own weekly newspaper called 'First Aid Post'. The first issue of the single sheet paper is dated 16 June. There were nine issues in all, and there is a set in the Australian War Museum in Canberra. They contain quite a few tongue-in-cheek short items and in-jokes.

Macdonald = probably Pte. Robert Macdonald (153) a 19 year-old pastry-cook from Sandford, Vic. He was eventually killed in action at Gallipoli in August 1915.

20 June  Cpl. Ernest Laycock (244). See Thursday 16 May.

Pte Alexander James Chisholm (72). A 20 year-old dentist from South Yarra. He was eventually evacuated from Gallipoli with pneumonia and later served in France. He returned to Australia in September 1918. He died in Athens (possibly in the mid 1960's) whilst on a Gallipoli pilgrimage.