[Some of the images for this multi-page letter have two pages to an image, and the images are not always in chronological order. Transcribed in the order in which it should be read; some line breaks introduced to aid readability. See original for details.]
[Written sideways in the left-hand margin of the first page:] Don Dunlop 9.8.32
On Active Service
No. 7 Coy A.S.C. Divisional Train
4th Inft. Brigade
N.Z. & A Division
My anticipation of the last letter to you was correct, in regard to my next visit to another country, in what appears to be a circuit of the globe.
Well we struck camp at Heliopolis on April 11th & after a 4 hours run in the train we were at Alexandria about 10 A.M. Then we viewed the steamer that was to transport us. It was about the size of the Namoi & on board this packet were stowed over 1000 men, 250 horses & rations for men & beasts to last 40 days, besides the usual cargo.
This steamer had no accommodation, being a tramp & we spent a fortnight on board; crammed just like an excursion to Port Stephens. Everywhere men were lying about & it was difficult to go from one end to the other. The men at once started on the bully beef & biscuit ration & the officers to the number of about 40 were invited to the Saloon. Well, in the saloon the dining table accommodated about 8 & and as I am not a colonel yet, I usually preferred tinned beef to the cold sausages & curry & rice which was the sterotyped menu.
After we were out from Alexandria 3 days we received a wireless message that a transport was being fired at by a Turkish torpedo boat about 30 miles away & life belts were given out & boat drill carried out. The men imagined that this was the ordinary routine. The Turkish boat fired 3 torpedoes but all missed. The reason accounted is this. The close range & the light trim of the transport which allowed all 3 torpedoes to go underneath. About 50 men were drowned, in trying to get away in small boats which capsized in launching, when the enemy were recognised. I suppose they were packed as close as we were.
Our next port of call was Lemnos Island in the Aegean Sea. Here is a grand harbour & this was the port of concentration. The entrance which is about a mile across had a torpedo net across the entrance as a guard against submarines. Inside were transports everywhere. I had my first view of the Queen Elizabeth along with many other battle-ships here & saw the River Clyde which was to be run ashore on Cape Helles in the landing scheme.
After I forgot to mention that this island formerly belonged to Turkey but after the war with Greece, the Greeks occupied it but it was not mentioned in the settlement at the close of the war. The position is now that England has taken it over & using it as a base. I went ashore & it struck me as being an ideal place for leading the simple life.
An interpreter we had on board, told me that on the island of Mitylini which is close by people live to a great age. 110 & 120 years being nothing rare. The principal diet, sour curdled milk & the absence of Trains, telephones, travellers & taxes seems to work wonders.
Just as we were leaving Lemnos an accident happened which was a preface of death which overtook many of those who witnessed it, later on in the day. Two hawkers' boats containg 5 men were alongside our transport & when we started they lost control & got under our steamers propeller. It was a terrible sight the way the boats were chopped to pieces. Two men lost their lives & the remainder were rescued by a small boat.
The Australian & NZ Divisions landed at Gaba Tepe. First of All the warboats bombarded the
slope cliffs while torpedo boats & trawlers towed barges & boats to the shore. They met with a terrible fire & of course just had to wait until they reached the shore to get a shot at the invisible enemy. A couple of boats got adrift & was were carried with the current to the north. Every man in them the boats was shot & even after they drifted on to the beach no body could go near them until a week later as the enemy had control over that area.
On reaching the beach, the men rushed the cliffs for it was no time for orthodox movements & all units intermingled. In some cases men did not get back to their regiments for days afterwards. The first 3 or 4 days every available man was continually in the 1st line of trenches but all the time they were well fed.
I should have mentioned that the men on dis-embarking had a very heavy pack to carry, extra ammunition, rations, & a small bundle of sticks for firewood which is scarce. Most of this impedimenta was thrown off when the shore was reached & then men charged in grand style. Our losses were heavy but is only reasonable when you consider that except for the warships not a shot was able to be returned until the shore was reached & then the small shrubs gave excellent cover from observation.
The Australian landing place, Gaba Tepe is about 10 miles north of Cape Helles where the English & French landed & is a small cove, which continually reminds me of the ground between the 2 tunnels along Merewether beach. All the foreshore is occupied with pack-mules, supplies, dressing stations etc, & up the slopes are all dug-outs for the enemy are continually dropping shrapnel over the cliffs. Of course the work must be gone on with & the sooner these guns are put out of action the better It is indirect fire & some of the shots fall on the dressing stations for the enemy can not see the red cross flags
The supposition is that they are worked from a light railway & the position continually changed.
The Goebden [German battle cruiser SMS Goeben, transferred to the Turkish Ottoman Navy in 1914] on the other side of the Peninsula fires about 4 or 5 shots across at the fleet anchored here each day & then shuts up. One shot hit a collier but did little damage. The Naval people have a captive balloon for observation purposes & a couple of seaplanes. An enemys aeroplane has dropped a few bombs amongst our fleet of transports but so far has not found the target.
All the transport is done with pack mules along a dry river bed & we have lost quite a number. At first we had to bring water in kerosene tins, 4 on a mule, to the trenches but now a good supply is obtainable. The officer who has the other section in my company, is in hospital with a bullet through his thighs & so far we (my company) have about 20 casualties. The Turks have snipers scattered about & they do a lot of damage for the country is favourable to their existence. During the night they are placed in holes between the enemys & our lines & with a good supply of ammunition, food & water. Here they have to remain until shot, so they accordingly sell their lines as dearly as possible. Some that have been shot were painted green, others kharki, on the bare skin down to the chest. Our men wear leaves & twigs stuck around their hats from which they have cut the brim off except the rear portion.
If you were on shore you would hardly recognise the Australian Officers. We all dress the same as the men & when walking carry rifles. All revolvers, map cases,
Sam Browne belts and the usual Officers rig is only an invitation to a sniper to pick you off. The conservative British officer I am afraid will never even discard his monocle, let alone his convential toggery.
It is wonderful the way a person involuntary "ducks" when a shell comes but you get used to it. The first day I fell right down & felt quite ashamed when no damage was done, yet when one of our men was hit about 3 yards away I did not hear the report. The shrapnel shell has a large radius when it bursts & scatters bullets about the size of a marble everywhere.
Large Numbers have been sent back with their minds unhinged through the strain, but now everyone is seasoned a little. When this effect was produced on our side, what must it be like amongst the Turks when the warboats get busy with shells from the Queen Elizabeth which weigh nearly a ton & seem to burst like a volcano out of the ground. The Indians are grand fighters & appear always cool. They are doing great work with their mountain batteries which is the heavist artillery they are equipped with (A reason) It is carried on mule back & can be got into position anywhere that cover will allow.
The food is good & cigarettes & newspapers are supplied. The postal delivery is O.K. although I have not been too fortunate with receipts. I often have a swim when down at the shore & it is a great advantage to the troops while resting.
Let me know if this reaches you as it is going via Egypt through the regular post-office, so am able to write fuller. I have not had a line from Miss Williams yet. I guess she is still going like Johnny Walker. I am expecting a note from you, about this time, in answer to my 1st letter.
I have not had a chance to weigh myself but really this life is agreeing with me. I must have looked very tough, for on leaving Australia I
have had my age guessed up to as high as 32. I always keep my head cropped very short all over for I am getting bald, but as a recompense I let it grown on my top lip. Of course it is not as robust as Steve Ashman's who, by the way, I found embarked across the Styx.
I don't know how the Australia Public are taking John Norton but I never heard yet of him enlisting to lead his 6/- a day "tourists", thousands of whom, poor chaps, will never need a return ticket.
[See page 498 for a description of John Norton, editor and proprietor of "Truth" newspaper, who was the originator of the term "six bob-a-day tourists" as applied to Australian troops.]
It is a reflection on the patriotism of the people of Australia if his slanders are allowed to pass without notice. I saw by the papers of the great procession in Sydney but of course many attended out of curiosity & for self enjoyment. Not until a few shells land from an enemy, in Sydney or Melbourne, will some people realise what we are up against.
[John Norton, 1858-1916, newspaper proprietor ("Truth" newspaper) and politician, who coined the term "six-bob-a-day tourists" to describe Australian soldiers. See a further reference to this on page 498.]
I will close this epistle, which you can judge by different pencils I have used, the number of times I have added a little to complete it, by hoping all at "521" are enjoying the best of health & happiness.
Well, Au Revoir
Clem W[dash] Lt.