Copy of letter from "The Front"
King George Hospital, Stanford St. London.
And now old sports as the old Doctor has finished with me I'll try and give you a few of my experiences at that much desired (I don't think) place – the Front. By the heading you will see that I am in dry dock, but it will please you I know to learn that to-morrow I say farewell to the establishment and wend my way home where milk pudding and thin bread and butter is not the only diet. But to get back to my story, as the monkey said. Our reinforcement only spent 10 days in Egypt but I saw enough in those ten days to satisfy me that all New Zealanders are angels in comparison with the denizens of Cairo, which is just about the lowest sink of depravity in the wide wide world. Of the life there I'll tell you – if I have the luck to get home – my stories, however, will only bear repetition in some back bar where even the bar-lady cannot hear. Well they bundled us out of Zeeloum at about 8 hours notice and we only remained in Alexandria about 18 hours, leaving subsequently in a filthy dirty tub named the Saturna for Lemnos, a Greek Island in the Aegean Sea, situated about 5 hours steam from the Dardanelles.
There were 2,700 of us on board and we lived like pigs during the trip, which occupied 2 ½ days. Submarines were reported in the vicinity and a squad of men with loaded rifles was kept on duty all the time, but nary a Sub turned up. Honestly I believe we would have welcomed one just for the sake of having a dip in the ocean (baths were denied us on board) and there was no water for washing. But our entry into Mudros, the harbour of Lemnos more than made up for any discomfort. The harbour is oval shaped, and in size about half as big as Wellington and when we arrived there were about 240 ships of all sizes and shapes at anchor in the fairway, there being no wharves or quays. Well we steamed right through this mass of shipping, and the reception we received from the crews and the troops on board absolutely beggars description.
First we passed the Aquitania, the largest steamer in the world, crowded with 7.500 troops, then we scraped past the battleship Swiftsure, and down the line we went, battleships (French and English) on port and starboard side. Hospital ships, transports, colliers, traders all round us, all crowded with soldiers and sailors anxious to honor the latest New Zealanders, I tell you it made one forget any discomfort, made one realise the wonderful spirit of the Empire and it certainly had the effect of heartening any waverer among us – (if there was one on board which I very much doubt). I counted 50 Warships at anchor – 14 battleships, 16 cruisers (English, French and Russian) and the remainder destroyers, torpedo boats and submarines. Of transports there were dozens and counting us there were 40,000 troops afloat at that moment. On shore tents were everywhere, but as to the number of men there I know not, as we did not go ashore. Two days we spent in the harbour and then on Saturday at 5 p.m. alongside came a big tug the Redbreast. She was to take us to the front, and I can assure you the boys wasted very little time in boarding her. By 6 p.m. we were outside the heads and at 8 we could hear the thunder of guns and see flashes in the sky which denoted that the great battle of which you have read full particulars was in progress. By twelve o'clock we were at anchor close to a