The History of Leith

March 31, 2012

LETTERS FROM SOLDIERS AND SAILORS.

LETTERS FROM SOLDIERS AND SAILORS.
C.T.—It gives me great pleasure to write and thank
you and the many friends for their kindness in sending
me such a most acceptable gift. I received it, although
it was addressed to a place 800 miles from here.
Saturday 27th February saw us leaving our ” Dear
Little Home in the West” (as it is to us away out here)
for somewhere, as the people in France call if, but what
we afterwards found out to be the Dardanelles. At last
we that had been at sea were happily climbing up the
gangway of a big-Castle liner, and, as everything seemed
: o be making for a nice trip, we were as happy as schoolboys.
Next day we started and were not long in leaving
the land far behind, but, alas ! sea-sickness soon set in,
and the decks were as clear as if the. ship had been going
into action; and in this manner we passed the first
two days. The morning of the third saw new life in
the ship, and during the rest of our voyage ” we were all
merry and bright.”
On the eighthtday we arrived in Malta, and moored
alongside the FisfrQuay, which afterwards turned out to
be an old spot of mine. Leave was given to officers and
none to ” the boys,” greatly to our disappointment (as
many knew which has proved to be) their last time
there. Remaining in this place for two days and admiring
what could be seen from the crowded deck of a
transport we weighed anchor, and started steaming in an
easterly direction again in the never-to-be-forgotten
climate of the Mediterranean, especially during the night,
owing to the phosphorescence of the water there. This
lasted for three days, and we arrived in one of the
prettiest bays one could wish for. Lemnos was the
name of this place, and it has turned out to be the
advanced base of the future operations of the M.E.F.
,On arrival at this place the first thing to catch the eye
was the big grey hull of the Lizzie, followed by the
smaller craft lying at the entrance to this almost landlocked
bay. Inside there was to be seen a few transports
also filled with troops like ourselves. During our
three weeks’ stay there we had a good time of it. Every
third morning we went ashore to get the stiffness out
of our limbs and do some training up the steep Mils that
were to be seen from the ship. The days on which we
did not land were taken up in forming boats crews to
pull the other companies ashore and back again.
One evening we sailed out and the order was given to
prepare to land, so we thought that we were in for it
this time, and our feet were burning to touch land for a
longer period than that we were in the habit of getting ;
but to our disappointment we came back to our old
anchorage after being off the coast of Gallipoli overnight.
A day or two afterwards we went out of the bay and
steamed south for three days, arriving in Port Said.
We put in a lot of hard training there, marching over the
desert, and part of my battalion had a go at the Turks
down at the Canal. Here we were inspected by Sir Ian
Hamilton, and he seemed to be quite pleased with his
Khaki Sailors. We were now in the land of the Pharos,
and the heat was something terrible throughout the day ;
the opportunity of a dip in the Canal was taken by
nearly every one, and we were boys once more.
However this did not last long, and we were off to
Alexandria to join up with the 29th Division. This we
did, my Company going aboard the same ship as the
Lancashire Fusiliers. They are fine fellows and had
just come back from the hills of India, carrying three
medals on their breast—the flower of the British army.
It was now nearing the 25th April, and after calling in
at Lemnos again, we arrived in Trenedos on the morning
of the 24th. Everybody was that busy now making
final preparations for the landing. We left the protect- .
ing sides of our transport and went aboard a trawler,
taking with us all the small lifeboats, so that we could
go farther inshore.
A silent moonlight night and our final jouney
commenced. So one could sleep, as everybody was
thinking of the morrow and what it would bring forth.
Nearer and nearer we crept to our goal until daybreak.
Searchlights could be seen working in the distant, but
that did not appeal to anybody, as every one was in silent
meditation. When the curtain of night was lifted
sufficiently we could see rising up before our eyes the
steep cliffs of Gape Helles.
At five o’clock the first shot was heard and soon the
bombardment commenced, the like of which will never
be seen or heard again. The air was filled with a
deafening roar, and in the distant could be seen the
effects of it all. The lighthouse that once stood on the
most prominent part of the cliff in a moment it was
gone—sky high—then falling in a thousand pieces. Shells
could be seen bursting as they emitted the smoke, and
after it had cleared away nothing could be seen but a
heap of ruins. Earth was thrown up, and before long it
was hard to distinguish ” ‘tween sea and sky.” During
this time we were being packed into the small boats
that we had brought from our transport. The steam –
packet boats from the warships soon had us in tow, and
a final effort with the oars our boat landed. Out
jumped everybody, or at least the people who had so far
got through the hail of shrapnel that was bursting
all round. Some fell into the carefully prepared holes,
while others were held up by the wire entanglements
that lay under the water. Not undaunted by this state
of affairs we soon reached the narrow strip of sand that
lay at the foot of the cliff: up the Cliff we went and
were in possession of the trench that commanded the
beach to our right. All this had been done in live
minutes, and after a short breather we were off again for
the next trench ; but not so quick this time, for although
it only lay about 300 yards off’ it took us about an hour
to get there.
Here my Company stopped, and after reinforcements
had landed they took our place and we returned to the
beach for duty there. During the ensuing night we
kept the firing line stocked with ammunition. Engineers
had by this time built piers so that the troops could
land with dry feet.
When the remaining battalions of the Division had
landed we took our part of the line. All went well with
me until the 6th of May, when as we were advancing
a Turkish bullet found my shoulder and sent me to
hospital in Malta for nearly six weeks. Well, what like
the Peninsula was after that I cannot say, as I have been
in Egypt ever since leaving Malta.
Now the Peninsula has been evacuated, and it is
with thoughts of sadness to think that we have given
up the ground so dearly won. However, we have the
assurance that the troops have been transferred to another
sphere of operations. . . .
I am afraid my story will be rather stale, so you will
need to forgive me if it has proved to be such.
Of the original “Alisons” to land I don’t think that I
there are 50 who have been on the Peninsula all the
time and saw it through. We had a very nice Christmas,
in fact as nice as circumstances would permit, but of
course it was not like being at home.

source-South Leith Magazine

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