WEEK 80: TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT
Monday 3 to Sunday 9 January 1916
The evacuation of Gallipoli reached its culmination on 9 January 1916, when the last troops were withdrawn from Cape Helles. This formed the most difficult part of the operation as by now the Turkish forces were actively looking for signs of withdrawal. On 7 January, they mounted a heavy artillery attack on the British forces which, although a failure, caused regrettably heavy casualties. On 8 January, the withdrawal of troops was further hampered by excessively windy weather and heavy seas running into the harbour. As the troops were embarking, fuses were lit to destroy large stores and magazines. One of these exploded prematurely and the flying debris caused the only recorded death of a soldier during the evacuation. The Newfoundland rear guard departed from Cape Helles at dawn on 9 January, bringing the Gallipoli campaign to an end.
Monday 3 January
Went to the hospital. Ione went to London. Muz, Tom & K. stayed in bed for breakfast & Muz stayed till tea time. After lunch Tom took K. & Dorothy for a walk on the Leas, I did some tidying K went to tea with Mrs Thurburn, Dorothy came here for tea & dinner.
Helles. Nice day but cold wind. Went round whole line with Kerans & arranged about blocking trenches. Straff 1started at 1.30. Had lunch with him [Kerans]. Got back about 3 o’c. Went down to the Div. in Burton’s —. No news about about 2 night. Got back about 5 o’c.
Tuesday 4 January
Went to the hospital. Dorothy came for lunch & dinner, Tom went to tea with Miss Harvey. Ione went to the theatre with the de Viviers.
Helles. Went to conference at 87th Bde Hd Qrs. Met Pierce who was commanding Inniskillings. Then went to Div. Abbott away at conference at Corps. Stayed in most of the afternoon & got kit packed up & sent off. All packs [?] got off. Lambourne in Hants badly wounded. A little rain looked like coming in hearty. Got S.A.A.2 & bombs buried. Went to Div about 4 o’c.
Wednesday 5 January
Went to the hospital. Ione went up to London by the 8-30 & Kathleen went away by the nine train. She is meeting Mrs Kirwan in London. I painted furniture in the servants’ rooms all day, & got a lot of it done. We went to bed at about eleven. Doddie didn’t come for dinner.
Helles. Cold dull and windy. Left at 9.15 with the Gen and went to Div Hd Qrs to a conference. Got back about 12 o’c. Went to Worcesters & Hants in the afternoon. A good deal of shelling going on. Went up to Bde Dump in the evening. [—] Lambourne died of wounds. Glorious fine night.
Thursday 6 January
Helles. Went up C avenue at 7 o’c withPercy. Got back about 8.30. Left again at 9 o’c & went to a conference at 87 Bde. Then went on to Div to try & see Abbott but he was away at a Conference. Londons had orders to go off. Had difficulty getting them started, as they only had very short notice.
Friday 7 January
Went to the hospital. Dorothy came round after lunch, & she, Tom & Duskey went down the town. Ione went to Tango tea & dined with Mr Willis. Dorothy came for tea & dinner.
Helles. Frosty night a bit cold. Got definite orders but plans were all changed. Worked out numbers & wrote orders in the morning. Had a conference at 3 o’c in the afternoon. 85 of the Bde went off that night leaving 13673 to be evacuated. Went down to Div about 4 o’c & saw that things were alright. Turks shelled trenches on the left of us very hard. 13 Div had some heavy casualties.
Saturday 8 January
Muz & I went round to Doddie at about ten, as she was going to have an operation, & have her nail off. Dr East & Dr Chambers did it, & we had to look after her. She took quite a long time before she came properly round. I went round to the Brinkleys to see if they knew Capt. Wright’shome address, as Gen. Snow writes this morning, that he has been wounded in the shoulder, but they didn’t know it. Went down the town with Muz. Ione went to the Tango Tea & the dance. I did painting & sewing all day. Tom & I went to the club. Mr Buchanan gave me some lovely violets & brought us home after the club. Went down the town to shop in the afternoon, & met Florence & went back to tea with them.
Helles. Nice warm fine day wind from the south. Went round to Wor & Hants Hd Qurs. Things very quiet. Went out reconnoitred the road to beach in the afternoon. Left about 4.30. Started control station at 5 o’c. First troops passed at 5.30, 2nd Lot 6 o’c 3rd lot 8 o’c. Last 82 men to Batt left firing line at 11.45. Left Eski about 12.40 got to beach about 1.45. Hung about for about 1 ½ hrs. Got away about 4.30.
Tonight’s the night. Eski Line. Helles. 9.40 pm.
My dear wee Mus.
I haven’t been able to write to you for several days for various and numerous reasons, the chief of which was that we are evacuating this place & no posts have been going out for days. Well as I say to-night’s the night. We have all been working like beavers for the last 10 days getting kits men etc away. As I told you we were brought over from Imbros then about 4 days after that we were told that we were going to Egypt in a few days’ time, then they decided to evacuate this place so we had to take over a bit of the line. I am at the present moment just behind the firing line. The whole Bde has now gone except 82 men from the Wor & 82 from the Hants who are at present holding the firing line. I have got a policeman, 4 signallers and 8 stretcher bearers with me. It’s a glorious bright starlight night & hardly a breath of wind really couldn’t be a better night. The first party to-night of 602 left the firing line, at least some and others they picked up on the way at 5.15 and passed here at 5.30 then at 6 o’c another party of 300 came along. At 8 o’c 325 of the Wor & Hants passed through and now of this Bde there are only 179 left. At 11.45 the last lot leave the firing line pass through this control station & dash straight off to the Beach. I have to see them through then telephone to the Div that they have gone. Then I have 15 sappers who come along set the mines, pull the barbed wire entanglement across this trench then we off it like mad for the beach. It is now a few minutes after 10 o’c & things are still very quiet. I am in great hopes that this will be the same success as Suvla. Anyhow all the Bde except just us little lot are off by now. The Gen & Percy left Bde Hd Qrs at 8.30, and are due at the Beach at 10.30. They are there by now but I don’t suppose they have embarked yet. There is a little bombing and sniping going on but things are really wonderfully quiet. I hope to get away from here by 12.30 and ought with luck to be on board by about 2 o’c. I believe we go to Mudros but don’t know for certain the rumour has it that we go to Egypt to refit.4 The men want a rest badly. I’ve had no letters from you for ages they have all been held up at Mudros so I hope to get them to-morrow or the next day and to be able to get this off at the same time. It’s wonderful having a night like this it’s quite warm and hardly any wind. It would be horrid if it was cold and wet.
There has been very little news here for some time. We have all been very busy working for this show & the plans have been changed about 4 times. I went to 4 conferences on four consecutive days and each time a different plan was given out. Well yesterday we got absolutely fresh orders which we are now carrying out. It is quite exciting in a way being here as there is really d— all to stop the Turk if he chooses to come on. 164 men are now holding our firing line which in ordinary times is held by two Batts of roughly 468 and 570 each. It is a bit monotonous just sitting here like this waiting. I have got a brazier here and a candle lantern and am really very comfortable. I am afraid they won’t let any ladies come to Egypt now or you might have come out which would have been rather fun. If we do go there & I find that it is possible for you to come I’ll send you a cable & tell you where to come to. But I’ve had so many promised rests in this war that I won’t believe it now till it actually comes off. The thing I want now most are my letters. I have only had one from you since I came to this spot, that came by K.M. in General de Lisle’s letter. The last one before that was at Suvla dated Nov 25. I must say I will be awfully glad to leave this spot. It’s a horrid place now. The Turk has got very bobbery5 & shells a lot, he has got all his guns and ammunition up from Suvla and it has really been very unhealthy this last 10 days or so. I got hit a shrewd blow on the shoulder last week by a lump of shell. It just raised a bruise but didn’t go in, so I can’t be returned as wounded!!! It was nothing atall really but just stung for a moment or two. They have got a lot of high explosive shells now which they spatter about pretty freely d—d unpleasant they are. They had hardly any at Suvla. All the shelling there was absolute child’s play to what we’ve had here lately. They shelled the 13th Div in the old J. trenches yesterday afternoon and gave them rather a bad time. They had about 125 casualties, then master Turk took it upon himself to post a few miserables over the parapet but it was a half hearted show and most of them were shot dead.
10.30. D— one of the Worcesters has just been hit so I have sent my stretcher bearers off to fetch him. The Hants had one man killed to-night. The Worcesters had 3 hit with a bomb about 7 o’c but none of them were bad and they were able to walk away alright. Our friend John Turk is shooting a bit more now but his guns are pretty quiet, which is a great thing. I hope he lets us go off safely without worrying us. I have heard very few shells going down to the Beach to-night, there goes one. Our monitors are out there somewhere & shell Asia whenever Asiatic Army opens fire. I am now going to have a cup of tea out of the General’s thermos flask which he lent me. Dear little man he is. Percy & I always describe him as God’s good man & it’s very true.
Sunday 9 January
Did out the room next Ione’s, then went round to the hospital to put down my name. Muz & Tom went to church in Sandgate, & Ione & Doddie went on the Front. I did some painting, most of the evening. The Mr Buchanan came for tea, & then he, Muz, Tom & I went down to the club. Doddie & Ione went up to the Grand after dinner. There was a lot of washing up to do, so we didn’t get back till about 10-30. Mr Buchanan walked back with us. We brought a little stray dog back with us too.